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.

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.