Roadblocks on Our Path to Citizenship
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 03:09
On June 27, 14 Republicans joined Senate Democrats in the best attempt Congress could muster to fix our nation’s broken immigration system — passing its comprehensive immigration reform bill by a vote of 68 to 32. The bill was far from perfect. Many immigrants — namely the poor, recently deported, recently arrived and LGBTQ — were shut out from the conversation. The “path to citizenship” described in the bill crisscrossed by red tape and border militarization became the name of the game. Despite these flaws, many in the immigrant community, including me, recognized the bill’s triumphs as well. The legislation offered the strongest support for childhood arrivals, or youth eligible for the benefits of the Dream Act, and provided us the opportunity to be formally recognized by the country we call home. After years of inaction and legislative failure, when comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate, the feeling was marvelous. Hope lingered.
But that was June. The bill has since gone ignored by the House, and the road to immigration reform now seems longer and messier than ever before. Republicans in the House have made it clear that they plan to tackle immigration reform on their own terms: a piecemeal approach in which heightened border enforcement would come before any sort of legalization. Perhaps the House leadership feels no sense of urgency because they do not face the daily impositions of a broken immigration system. They are not the ones who have to wake up every morning with limited choices about where to go, where to work and how to get there.
In reality, millions of families continue to live in danger and fear as this process drags on. Talented undocumented American students will continue to graduate high school with little hope of attending college. Immigrants will be unjustly detained and potentially removed from the country. American children will go without seeing their fathers and mothers. Those few coveted college degrees will go unutilized. Our reality is urgent.
Immigrant rights are human rights, and immigration is now, more than ever, an issue of justice. For this reason the push for immigration reform has drawn support from multiple communities: faith, labor, LGBTQ. Yet somehow we must continue to exhaust ourselves convincing lawmakers that each hardworking immigrant is worthy of American citizenship. The battle for immigration reform is ongoing. Even as I recall my own excitement the last time we were close to a victory, I know that now we cannot expect to withdraw and reap any benefits. From my conversations with leaders in the midst of the movement, it’s clear neither they nor I will rest until President Obama signs a just bill into law.
Although legislation has stalled in the House, do not expect the issue to disappear. Instead of comprehensive reform, there will likely be long and drawn out debates over smaller bills. Many expect to see the Dream Act, which seems logical given its content’s widespread support. The Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students and young workers brought to the United States by their parents as children. Under it, students could effectively apply for financial aid and receive in-state tuition to attend public colleges and universities. While there is much speculation about what to expect next, all we can really do is wait, see and react to these future battles.
I hope to see action in the House before the end of the year. Though these bills are expected to be more restrictive, the dialogue they provoke will be invaluable in shaping any potential laws and, consequently, millions of lives.
Citlalli Alvarez is a sophomore in the College. She is president of Hoyas for Immigration Rights.