Champagne & Executive Orders

Talk of undocumented immigrants getting some sort of legality has been around for as long as I can remember. This time, the subject of the talk has shifted from hoping Congress will pass immigration reform to Obama taking matters into his own hands. It is believed that he is about to issue an executive order, which will legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, like me.

This upcoming order is the kind a leader issues out of frustration because nobody (Congress) seems to be doing what they are supposed to (their job), but then again, what’s new?

Marco Rubio and John McCain are two congressmen who have been a huge disappointment to me. Marco Rubio is, of course, the son of Cuban immigrants who has made a career out of changing his mind, and drinking gallons of water while giving speeches.

John McCain is the former presidential candidate who unleashed on America the scourge that is Sarah Palin. It is also believed that he was present when John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed the Declaration of Independence.

These two clowns, who had once vehemently championed a bipartisan immigration bill, have suddenly distanced themselves from it, just like one would swiftly distance oneself from a friend who farted in an elevator.

I’d love to say that I’m flabbergasted by Rubio’s and McCain’s actions but I’m not. None of us “illegals” are. We’ve witnessed this flip-floppy behavior so often that it no longer surprises us.

Lately, my wife and I have decided to suspend our skepticism and to anticipate the president’s executive order, which may happen very soon. My better half is cautiously optimistic. She hopes that all 11 million of us will get to step out of the shadows and be able to travel and work legally.

I, on the other hand, am obsessing over a $5 “Champagne” bottle chilling in our fridge that I can’t wait to pop when President Obama issues the executive order.

 

 

 

 

An Emerging Crisis.

A new immigration crisis has emerged. Over the past few years more than 40,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been showing up at the southern border asking for asylum because of the rising gang violence in their home countries.

So who is to blame for this influx of children? Frankly, there is enough blame to go around. One could blame the US for supporting corrupt Central American governments. One could also blame Mexico for adopting new immigration policies that make it easier for Central Americans to enter and cross Mexico. One could even blame the parents of these children for sending them on a perilous journey to a country that they believe won’t reject their traumatized children.

It is highly unlikely that these minors will be granted asylum. They will most likely be detained and processed. Some will be released to relatives in the US after paying bond, but most will eventually be placed in deportation proceedings.

The solution to this crisis is not simple, but something could be done to begin nipping this crisis in the bud. I believe that “something” is Immigration Reform. Immigration Reform will fix the current broken system and usher in a system that works.

A system that works is one that will allow 11 million of us living in the shadows to start living our lives in the light. A system that works will bring the backlogged Immigration Court system from the Stone Age into the 21st century. A system that works will secure the border and make it easier for foreigners to enter this country without having to risk their lives.

Sad as this crisis is, I’m glad that it has brought Immigration Reform back into the limelight. My wish as a parent is that when all is said and done, these children will end up in a place where they won’t have to worry about gang violence, or constantly be afraid of deportation. Until then, we all need to keep fighting for Immigration Reform.

 

The Immigration Reform Battle Goes On.

Whenever people talk about the Undocumented or “illegal” immigrant, they are in fact talking about me. You see, I’m an undocumented immigrant and it really irks and hurts when I hear hate and lies being spewed about the Undocumented by anti-immigration proponents. These xenophobes claim that we the Undocumented are criminals and parasites who need to remain in the dark, get deported, or magically wished out of existence.

A few weeks ago, the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was on the Senate floor where it was discussed and debated upon. The loudest mouths in the Senate also happened to be foes of immigration reform. Senators like Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions, and Chuck Grassley, among others, stood up and railed incessantly against the bill. When the time came for the Senate members to vote on the Gang’s bill, it was passed with a vote of 68-32.

This bill is far from perfect. If it gets passed in its present form, about 4 of the 11 million Undocumented won’t meet the criteria for legalization and will either get deported or driven deeper into the shadows.  Those legalized are bound to fall out of status if they become unemployed for more than 60 days. With this bill, E-Verify will become mandatory and communication between ICE and local police will be more streamlined, making it easier for them to target people who look, act, or sound “illegal.”

Now that the Senate has passed the bill, the ball is in the House’s court and what will happen to it from here on out is anybody’s guess. So far, Speaker John Boehner who is the speaker of the House doesn’t seem keen on passing the Senate bill. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republican members of the House don’t have much of an incentive to pass it. More than 200 of them have less than 25 percent Latinos in their districts.

Ultimately, the passing or the killing of the immigration bill will boil down to whether the Republican party cares more about appeasing their Caucasian constituents, rather than winning the next presidential election. Many believe that this bill will not pass unless Speaker John Boehner commits career suicide by passing it in the House without the full support of the majority who for the most part happen to be conservative House Republicans.

Looking at the facts, it is quite clear that the path ahead for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill won’t be easy. Some even believe that it will downright take a miracle for the bill to pass. I believe in miracles and I’m confident that immigration reform will pass this year, simply because it’s about time a bill legalizing 11 million Undocumented Americans, like me, was passed.

 

Marking Up The Immigration Bill

When the “Gang of Eight” released their much-awaited bill, they posted it online for all to see. A group of select Senators, both Republican and Democrat, were then given permission to mark up the bill.

This meant that they were allowed to discuss, debate and offer amendments which, if agreed upon, would be added to the “Gang’s” immigration bill. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you see it), scandals and natural disasters made it possible for the senators to mark up the bill without much interference from anti-immigration nutcases.

I, along with fellow immigration reform junkies, followed the markup process on the interwebs, as well as on CSPAN. It was great watching the “Gang of Eight” systematically quash every amendment brought forward with the intention of killing their Immigration bill.

Fighting off poison pill amendments from Republican members of the “Gang of Hate” was no easy feat. Ted Cruz, the Canadian- born Hispanic Senator from Texas, whined and whined incessantly, like a 3 year old, whenever his poison pill amendments were rejected.

Anti-immigration Senator Jeff Sessions from the suthern state of Alabama constantly regurgitated lies concocted by immigrant hate groups like NumbersUSA and FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform). He matter-of-factly claimed that, if legalized, we, the Undocumented, would pretty much steal jobs from just about every living US citizen.

At the end of the markup, the enemies of immigration reform were defeated and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the “Gang of Eight” bill with a 13-5 vote!

Next, the bill will go to the Senate floor where it will be discussed, debated upon and voted on. The general desire is for it to pass the Senate with at a 60+ vote majority. When it passes (and I have faith it will), the bill will move to the Republican-dominated House.

What happens to the bill in the House is anyone’s guess. That said, time is running out and now is the time for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. We, the Undocumented, can’t wait to come out of the shadows and get a fair shot at living the American Dream. For so long we have been living the American Nightmare.

An Immigration Bill Has Emerged!

Exactly a year after I was put in deportation proceedings, an immigration bill has emerged. Drafted by 8 Senators known as the Gang of 8, the Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (phew, what a mouthful!) just might save me and others from getting deported…that’s if it is speedily passed and signed into law.

Immediately after being signed into law, the Department of Homeland security will have six months to come up with a plan to secure the US borders. I wish them luck. Meanwhile, the government will take those 6 months to prepare for the barrage of applications from undocumented immigrants desiring Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.

If eligible, we’ll all be allowed to live and work legally in the US, as well as travel outside of the country. We would also have to pay about $2,000 in fines over a 10y-year period. Learning English, taking a civics test and paying back taxes (if the IRS says we owe them) would also be requirements. The bill states that for 10 years, we will not be able to access the same federal benefits we never had access to in the first place. After 10 years of not joining a gang and not driving drunk, both of which would be grounds for deportation, we’ll then be able to apply for a green card. 3 years after that, we’d be allowed to petition for citizenship.

Those who came into the country after December 31, 2011, are simply out of luck and, when caught, will be processed and deported. The rest of us will have to prove that we have  lived continuously in the US since we got here, and we will have about a year to come out of the “shadows” and apply for RPI status.

If, like me, you are in removal proceedings, or have been ordered deported, have no fear. You, too, will be eligible to apply for RPI status, if you’re still around when the bill is passed. This is why it is wise to buy more time. If, at present, you haven’t yet been ordered deported, tell your lawyer to ask the judge to delay your deportation on the grounds that you are eligible for RPI status. Another thing that will come as a relief for many undocumented immigrants is that those who made false claims to US citizenship, misrepresented themselves or committed fraud will be given waivers. In other words, they’ll be forgiven!

The path to legality and, eventually , to citizenship won’t be easy. To quote Senator Bob Menendez, one of the authors of the bill, “This is a long pathway. It is a long pathway, but it is an achievable pathway.”

A year ago this month, when I was face to face with two ICE agents, the words Immigration Reform weren’t even in my vocabulary. A year later, I eat and breathe immigration reform. So much has happened so fast! Because of that, I’m hopeful that someday, somehow my deportation will be halted, and that this bill, which is still a bill and not yet law, will find its way into President Obama’s hands. I’m hopeful that it will be signed into law, making me and millions like me beneficiaries of immigration reform.

Times, they really are a-Changin.

For years, anti-immigration groups like NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)* have been using fear to keep the undocumented in this country mute and afraid. By spewing out slanted statistics, and xenophobic rhetoric, they have been very effective in brainwashing gullible citizens to dislike the undocumented.

 My favorite folk singer, Bob Dylan, sang a song called  Times, “They are a-Changin’.” Indeed, the Bobster was right. Times they are a-changing for the 11 million of us who are undocumented.

On the 5th of this month, House Republicans and Democrats held a hearing to wrap their minds around this immigration “issue.” The session was interrupted by a group of young protesters called Dreamers, who repeatedly chanted, “Undocumented and unafraid!” This act of defiance is emblematic of the sentiments many young undocumented immigrants in this country have. We’re tired of being used, but seldom appreciated. We’re also tired of being afraid, and we’re willing to come out into the open to speak our minds, despite the consequences.

Anti-immigration fanatics (you know yourselves) know that we are all onto them. The American people are no longer buying their tripe. These clowns now seem scared and shaken, and they ought to be because the time has come for the undocumented to be acknowledged, appreciated and helped.

In 2007 President George W. Bush brought forward a bill to legalize undocumented immigrants. Sadly, his bill fell 14 votes short of the 60 that he needed to push toward a final vote. Fast forward to 2013 and everyone, except those who have been living under a rock, agrees that the immigration system is broken. NOW is the time to fix it through comprehensive immigration reform.

So to those who are asking me and my compatriots to self-deport back to México, even though many of us aren’t from México, we have this to say to you: We are no longer afraid. Either join us, or get out of our way because immigration reform will happen this time. Whether you like it or not. Times, they really are a-changin’.

http://www.humanlifereview.com/index.php/component/content/article/68-2012-fall/205-hijacking-immigration

The Big Leak.

Last month, a White House snitch leaked a draft of the president’s immigration bill to the press. Everyone, including me, wanted to know what was in it. First of all, I’ve got to say that this leak is, by far, the most pathetic leak in the history of leaks. The fact that the White House had an “Oh well, these things happen” response, instead of flipping out and firing everyone and every thing in the White House, makes me suspect that the leak was indeed intentional.

So what was the big deal about the leaked bill? The leaked bill was a big deal to me because it gave me a rough insight into what the final immigration bill might look like. There is a chance, a great chance that both the Senate and House immigration bills will look somewhat similar to the president’s.

According to Obama’s bill, we, the 11 million, will be called “Lawful Prospective Immigrants” (LPIs) once we come out of the so-called shadows and apply for a visa to stay in the U.S. I hate being called names but I must say “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” has a really sexy ring to it. It’s better than being called an “illegal,” whatever that means.

To become an LPI one would have to be in the US on the day the bill is passed. Also, he or she would need to be an upright non-citizen and not a criminal. If the president’s bill is passed (and I’m not holding my breath), everyone in removal proceedings, including me, will be eligible to become an LPI. Even if an undocumented immigrant was busted for ducking in and out of the border after being deported, they, too, would be in luck. According to the bill, they, too, could apply to become “Lawful Prospective Immigrants”.

As an LPI club member, I would be able to work legally and would finally be able to travel out of the country. The only stipulation would be that I wouldn’t be able to stay outside of the US for longer than six months. The LPI visa would have to be renewed after four years. If I had wives and children in my home country, my LPI status would allow me to start petitioning for all of them to come and join me in the land of burgers and Beyoncé. The downside to this bill is that LPIs would have to wait in the back of the line for 8 years to get a green card and an additional 5 years to become US citizens. That’s assuming that the government pulls up their socks and swiftly takes care of the green card backlog, which currently has over 4 million applicants.

The leaked bill also talked about the dreaded worker verification system commonly known as E-Verify. The draft proposes that companies would have to E-Verify all their new hires and current employees within four years. This, I’m sure, is sending chills down the spines of many employers as well as undocumented immigrants who have been working on the downlow for years. I suspect that many immigrants may lose their jobs and those that don’t may be viewed as untrustworthy, once their status is revealed. As much as this reform is going to be a relief to many (and trust me we really need to be reformed), there is a high chance that that it may also lead to job loss, damaged friendships and shattered lives.

In the end, those great activists and politicians who fought on our behalf will pass the ball to us and expect us not to drop it. It’s incumbent upon us immigrants to start thinking of how we’ll deal with the inevitable changes that will take place in our lives and communities, if the immigration bill is passed.

What’s Your Game Plan?

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress had a kumbaya moment and passed the immigration reform bill. If that happened, what would your game plan be? Presently, nobody quite knows how the reform bill will look. However, there are about four things that people predict you and I will have to deal with if, or when, the bill is signed into law.

1. Coming out. This is probably going to be the hardest and scariest decision you’ll have to make because of its consequences. There are many ‘what if’s’ that you will need to ask yourself: “What if I’m forced to tell my employer that I used fake documents to get the job?” “How will I go about paying my back taxes?” “If I come out and fail to pass any one of the many requirements they have, will I be deported?” “Do I have the money to pay fines as well as possible attorney fees?” “What will my friends and family members say when they learn that I’m undocumented?” These, among many other questions, should be considered before you decide to come out of the shadows.

2. Fines. We will probably have to pay a fine of some kind. Let’s face it, we broke the law and since this is not 1986 and our president is not Ronald Reagan, I doubt that someone is going to walk up to us, thank us for being undocumented and then give us Amnesty. Though we don’t know how much the fines will be, my guess is that unless Congress does away with the “fine the illegals” idea, the fines will be anywhere from $1-$2,000 a person. It’s important to consider the paying of fines as a possibility and figure out where you will find the money to pay them.

3. Temporary visas. We may or may not get a renewable temporary visa to stay and work legally in this country. My hope is that we’ll get green cards and that we won’t have to leave the US for the visas or green cards to be processed. Leaving of course would mean more spending in order to become legal. The truth of the matter is that most of us aren’t rich and it would be nice if Congress did us a kindness and really put that into consideration as they work on the immigration bill.

4. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting is something that we immigrants are used to. Some of us have waited patiently for decades, with the hope that the American people would officially acknowledge our existence and toil to legalize us. If lawmakers like the “Gang of Eight” and Marco Rubio have their way, we’ll all be required to go to the back of the Green Card line. This line still has individuals in it who applied to come to the US way back in the 80s. That was when parachute pants were in, and bangs that reached for the heavens were said to be “totally rad.” The way the current immigration system works, it may take us a couple of centuries to get the papers needed to live and work legally in the US. Congress needs to figure out a way to speed up the Green Card process. Otherwise, they would be letting us die of thirst at the side of the fountain.

If congress passes the immigration reform bill, we’ll all be able to hit the reset button of our lives. We’ll finally be free! We won’t need to look over our shoulder for ICE agents or freak out when someone knocks on our door. We’ll be able to tell the whole truth about ourselves to anyone and everyone, and we’ll no longer be preyed on because of our undocumented status.

There is no better day than today for you to be strong and courageous. It’s time you worked on a game plan just in case Congress does the right thing and allows us to live and work legally in this great country.

 

Is Change Really Coming?

I’m seated in a near-empty apartment, trying to digest everything that has taken place in the span of 10 months. Where there was a brown upholstered sofa, now stand two folding chairs. Where there was a glass-top dining table, stands a folding TV tray. My mattress sits on the bedroom floor, and I use mason jars instead of drinking glasses. I have lost many things but, thankfully, I haven’t lost hope.

 Last December, I went to see my no-nonsense immigration lawyer. I mean, this guy is a tell-it-like-it-is kinda guy. The very first time I met him, he pulled a Beyoncé on me and told me that it would be best for me to pack up my things and go back to my home country. He explained that my being out of status for close to 10 years, as well as working without authorization would really work against me in immigration court.

On my second visit, this 7-time winner of the ‘Rising Star Super-Lawyer’ award began to sing a different tune! Instead of reiterating what he had told me the first time, he pretty much pleaded with me to buy time and stay in the US. He disclosed that there were changes taking place in Washington, and there was a chance that I would benefit from them.

obama

Earlier last week, President Obama gave a speech in which he laid out his ideas for immigration reform. The president made it clear that there was going to be a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. I was really hoping that he would immediately stop all deportations, but sadly he didn’t. I found it really hard to come to grips with the fact that while he spoke, many like me were being arrested, processed and deported.

President Obama’s outline differed from the proposal made by a bi-partisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight”. In their reform plan, they said that they were going to give us a path to citizenship only when the border was secure.

How secure do these dudes want this already secure border to be? Didn’t they get the memo from the Pew Research Center that net migration from Mexico has come to a standstill? I’m no BS detector but I get the feeling that the 8 gangstaz have come up with a great stalling stratagem. My question to the Eight Gs is this: how many Billion $$ with a B will you continue to flush down the Department of Homeland Security for the sake of Border Security (B.S)?

That said, it is such a relief to know that there is going to be a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. My concern as a person in deportation proceedings is how long immigration reform will take. For me, the deportation clock is ticking. I probably have until December before I get deported. I know I’m biased, but I think that the first step in immigration reform should be putting a moratorium on all deportations. I really don’t want to be among the 2 million who will have been deported by Obama in 2014 if Congress decides to take its sweet time.

President Obama said that we, the 11 million, must be held responsible for our actions by jumping a few “tough, but fair” hoops which include: registering with the authorities (Done), passing security and criminal checks (I ain’t got nothin’ to hide), paying taxes (I’ve always paid my taxes), going to the back of the line (just as long as they let me work legally), and learning English (which I clearly cannot speak).

For someone like me who graduated from college, these hoops can be easily jumped, but what about the millions of undocumented immigrants who have no formal education and are unable to pass English language tests? Will they have to be deported or forced back into hiding? They, too, have contributed greatly to the building of this mighty nation. Some of them tear up when they hear the national anthem being sung, and others consider themselves Americans, even though they do not have the legal papers to prove it.

I, as well as the 11 million like me, don’t want freebies or something for nothing. We are smart, hard-working and industrious people. Just give us a chance to prove it. So please put us on a pathway to citizenship and do away with the stipulations. All these proposed hoops may sound tough and fair, but without realizing it they will end up scaring, alienating and hurting the same undocumented immigrants lawmakers are working so hard to help.

Is change really coming? I have a strong feeling it is and it may be sooner than we expect.

Waivers? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Waivers!

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that as of March 4th, “illegal” aliens who had US citizen children would be given a special waiver. This waiver would allow them to stay in the US as they continued to work on seeking legal status. To get legal status, the “illegal” aliens would still have to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that their US-born children would endure extreme hardship if their parents were deported.

Once the government accepted the proof presented to them, the aliens would then have to go back to their country of origin to pick up their visa from the US consulate. This time, the administration pinkie-promised that the processing of the visas at the consulate would take a shorter time than before. They also gave their word that after the “illegal” aliens got their visas, they wouldn’t be prevented from rejoining their families in the US. Frankly, I’m extremely skeptical of this so-called “special” waiver.

It doesn’t sound to me like a good deal, because it is not 100% guaranteed that Homeland Security will allow the person back into the US once they leave the country. I say this because I don’t trust the administration; not just yet.

Throughout the past year, President Obama, as well as Homeland Security, claimed that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was focusing on arresting criminals. However, they still sent two ICE agents to capture me, even though I wasn’t a threat to anyone. It seems to me that there was a break in communication between the administration and my local ICE field office. That break needs to be fixed.

I think it’s sweet that the administration is making us think that it’s doing something about the 11 million “illegal” immigrants living in the US; but that’s not good enough. Very few “illegal” aliens will take advantage of the waiver because it’s too risky. Few of them are crazy enough to come out in the open and surrender at an ICE office in exchange for a waiver. They are smarter than that. Those in deportation proceedings are about the only ones who stand to benefit from this waiver. Waving waivers at “illegal” immigrants’ faces may seem like an enticing and sexy act, but few, if any, will take the bait.