Unfinished Business: An immigration bill, but too soon to celebrate

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Dear Mr. President,

Finally we have a bill! But I think it’s way too soon to celebrate anything, given the fact that a crop of undocumented immigrant will remain.

For now, at least the long overdue and talked about bipartisan immigration reform legislation – the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” – has been introduced in Senate, a big first step towards the silver lining on a very long, dark road for many undocumented migrants.

At least the positive in this is that those undocumented immigrants, who arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011 and have no criminal record and do not have three misdemeanor convictions, including for offenses such as reckless driving, trespassing or vandalism, would be eligible for legal residency, according to the bill’s summary.

Of course, this is as long as they cough up to $500 in fines – for having come to the United States illegally – and pay back any back taxes. Once that is done they will receive temporary approval to stay.

Still, those eligible would become registered in a provisional immigrant status that will allow the applicant to travel outside the country and return legally. This is great news for the many that have been living for as much as two decades in the U.S. without ever setting foot outside again.

Complicated

But here’s where the bill gets complicated – it would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the U.S. and once borders with at least 30,000 illegal crossings a year are sealed off. Then after 10 years as provisional residents, immigrants could become lawful permanent residents by following the same guidelines as immigrants who enter the country legally. That process includes a $1,000 fee.

It’s not perfect by any means, and while we all are optimistic, we hope you would also speak out and intervene for those we are leaving as undocumented still. And yes, call on your base to constructively engage lawmakers to make this bill a reality and amend the Congressional bill to include all undocumented migrants.

Those immigrants in the Caribbean and African communities too must be involved in this lobbying process, instead of sitting on the sidelines. The battle has now truly begun – now it’s time to clean this measure up so it benefits all not just some and kicks the can down the road by creating another crop of millions of undocumented migrants in years to come.
Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud.

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