Legal immigration into the United States is a tedious, expensive and time-consuming process. It stands to reason that immigration reform, however well-intended, cannot provide benefits to undocumented aliens today that are currently unavailable via the legal process now in place..
So, what is it that both undocumented aliens and prospective legal immigrants want? Both want residency (entry), temporary legal status (visa), path to citizenship (green card or permanent legal residency) and naturalization (citizenship). The person engaging the legal immigration process first seeks legal status in order to obtain permission for residency and subsequently a chance for permanent legal status and citizenship. The undocumented worker uses illegal entry to bargain for employment, as well as legal status, path to citizenship etc.
The proposed reform will allow most of the current illegal resident population to obtain immediate non-resident visas that will allow the holders to reside and work here temporarily (three years) and allows them to enter the process for permanent legal status subject to the same conditions as legal immigrants. Could it be more fair?
Yes. Because while the illegal workers wait for their chance to pursue economic opportunity and citizenship in California and Oklahoma, the legal applicant will be awaiting those same opportunities back in Canada and Portugal.
Marco Rubio is most likely correct when he says that these undocumented residents aren’t going anywhere. They will continue to live among us with or without legal status. We can debate in good conscience who should be be offered legal status and who should not. Many of the undocumented are gainfully employed. Some employ legal residents. Others circumvent the legal process because pursuing it puts them in harm’s way in their home country.
To borrow some language from President Obama, “fairness dictates” that those currently awaiting legal immigration have to come first. Perhaps the process should be restricted to the law-abiding while the border security piece is being worked out. As it stands now, the best strategy for those facing long waits for legal immigration is to go to Mexico and sneak across.