Diversity Dialogue Series: Immigration Reform

The Etownian May 1, 2013 0

What should I know about immigration reform? Dr. Montserrat Linares-Farras, chair of the modern languages department, led this discussion, which is close to her heart since she is an immigrant herself. Linares started out by asking the small group if they knew anything about the new immigration reforms.

First year Claire Halpin answered with what she was learning in one of her classes.“In our PS 111 class with Dr. Kopko, each week we have a current event presentation, the past few weeks have presented the immigration reforms that the legislative branch is trying to pass,” Halpin said. “It is about being open to new things.”

Linares elaborated on this topic by explaining the progress that the political parties have made on this particular issue. “It is a bipartisan effort at this point, it has never been there before,” Linares said. In the 2008 election, 71 percent of the Latino population voted for Obama due to his compressive reform. This reform could be very important to the political process since there are 40 million immigrants in the United States and 11 million of them are undocumented.“There is a sense of urgency to see the reforms get passed,” Linares said. “[Immigrants] are very important to the economy, so financially it makes sense.”

“It is very difficult to become a legal immigrant in this country. You have to [have] family [members who] are citizens in the country or a high education level,” Linares said. “There are jobs open so they are coming. The flux of immigration is dictated by the economy.” The first thing about immigration reform is the heightened border security. There will be an increase with fencing and more resources for border patrol.

Along with the increased border security, the legislative branch will declare a new status to some immigrants known as a Register Patrol Immigrant (RPI). Undocumented immigrants can apply for this if they came to America before December 31, 2011. In order to be bestowed this new status; immigrants have to meet some qualifications: evidence that they have been living the United States since 2011, a background check, and tax payment for the time that they have been here, which also includes a $500 fine for unpaid taxes.

When a person achieves the status of an RPI, it will help them be able to work legally. The RPI status is valid for six years. During this time, they are eligible to apply for a green card. The qualifications for the RPI are still there and they have to be the process of learning English. After three years, the person can apply to become a full-fledged citizen.

The other immigration reform involves the young adults known as the “Dreamers,” who came to America before the age of sixteen along with their parents and are usually under the age of 31. They will able to apply for citizenship under the Dream RPI. The qualifications for the Dream RPI are as follows: a GED or high school diploma, or military service and no criminal record. With the Dream RPI status, the “Dreamer” would also acquire an agricultural card where he/she could work legally and get benefits such as: health insurance. The Dream RPI is valid for 5 years. After that, they could apply for a green card and sometime after they could be naturalized.

Diane Elliot, Director of Diversity and Assistant Professor of Social Work, asked a very important question. “Did legislative branch build any support,” Elliot asked. Linares answered that the legislative branch is setting aside money for the Office for the New Americans. It will offer support and federal money to this group of people. It will also be protected by federal law and will help local and state government with all the new reforms.

The only thing that could hinder the immigration reforms getting passed is the recent events that have happened in Boston. “It could be an excuse to postpone but who knows,” Linares said. “ I hope it does not postpone because [immigrants] contribute to the success of our society and they need to be legalized.”

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