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Immigration Reform: Fact or Fiction – Part 2

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) died a slow and painful death in the summer of 2007. Backed by President Bush, the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 never made it out of the Senate. Despite support from both political parties, the bill did not survive, and the hopes and prayers of millions were dashed.

Today, the government is less willing to address CIR because public support has dwindled. Democrats were unable to deliver on President Obama’s campaign promises for reform when they controlled Congress, and the last bill with any chance of success (the DREAM act) failed to make it to a final vote in the Senate in December, 2010. Basically, the DREAM Act proposed relief for the most innocent “illegal” immigrants: undocumented children brought here by their parents. These children could become lawful residents if certain criteria were met by attending college or serving in the military. In May, 2011, Senator Harry Reid re-introduced the DREAM Act in the Senate. Although unlikely to pass soon, the DREAM Act remains the last great hope for meaningful changes in immigration law.

In June, 2011, Senate Democrats introduced a much more sweeping immigration reform bill which would strengthen border security, improve worksite enforcement of immigration laws, and provide a path to residency for “illegal” aliens based on strict conditions. If you have not heard about this bill or any action on it, that should tell you something about its chances for success.

For now, instead of federal CIR, more states will likely try to pass their own anti-immigration laws. This is not good news for millions of undocumented people and I fear that times will get even tougher for those seeking a better life in the United States who are unable to navigate our broken system.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Immigration law is federal law; as more states seek to punish “illegal” immigrants and interfere with federal legislation, we can expect more frequent judicial intervention. As America becomes more polarized, with a growing number of “sanctuary cities” and more states attempting to make their own immigration laws, the federal government will be forced to confront the problems with our broken immigration system. Ultimately, Congress will have to pass comprehensive immigration reform. When it comes, and what it will look like, remain to be seen. Until then, we must continue to advocate for reform, educate the public about the problems with our current laws, and be a voice for those who many people wish to silence.

Originally Published: La Costa Latina, August, 2011

The information provided in this column is for general information purposes only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
If you have specific legal questions, you are encouraged to contact an attorney.

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