President Obama on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Today, President Obama spoke from Las Vegas regarding the need for change in U.S. immigration policy and his pledge to push comprehensive immigration reform through.

President Obama urged Congress to “move forward in a timely fashion,” or he would send them a bill based on his proposal and insist they vote on it right away.

The White House’s proposal on immigration reform has four parts.  1) continue to strengthen the borders; 2) crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers; 3) hold immigrants accountable (more on that below); and, 4) streamline the legal immigration system.

Regarding part 3, immigrants who have been living here illegally will have to hold themselves accountable by paying taxes (which most already do anyway) and a penalty fee; learning English and U.S. civics; undergoing criminal background checks, submitting biometric data; and, going to the  “back of the line” – meaning waiting their turn for a visa number to become available due to backlogs – before they can apply for residence and, ultimately, citizenship.  I am also still trying to absorb the profoundness of this wonderful statement: “There will be no uncertainty about their [undocumented immigrants’] ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria.”

Those who apply may be granted provisional legal status, which would likely involve obtaining work authorization.  Obtaining employment authorization is beneficial not only for applying for jobs, but because it provides the ability to apply for a social security number, and depending on the state, a drivers license or identification card.  After a period of time, the applicant will be able to apply for lawful residence and then citizenship.

There will also be earned citizenship for DREAMers, those who were brought here as infants and young children but are undocumented.  “By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship.”

If you would like to watch President Obama’s remarks, here is a link to the video on YouTube.

Photo from Beverly and Peck.

About the author: Grace Alano is the founder and principal attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco, California.

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