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Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants: Has Time Ran Out?

It is an undeniable fact that our country was built with the help of immigrants. The founding fathers themselves have immigrant roots, but it appears that being an immigrant has varying connotations today. The fight for immigration reform is still running and with the incoming of Joe Biden, activists believe this might be the last perfect chance until the Congress 2022 midterm elections could erase the hope of reform ever becoming a reality. It is obvious that the time to act is now, because if not now, then when?

The objective of legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants has not been heard of since Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, where it legalized the majority of immigrants who had migrated to the U.S. before 1982. President Biden plans to be the first to take steps towards immigration reform, including making the path to citizenship easier. In his plan he states how he wants to keep families together by making wait times shorter, securing our border by implementing technology that will scan for contraband and improving immigration courts by training immigration judges. The bill has benefits for both sides, not only immigrants.

In passing this bill, the government would not only help boost the economy, but even lower the crime rate. Even with these benefits, Republicans are not willing to support the bill until the U.S.-Mexico border is secure. Republicans also use the recent multitude of migrations to the United States to not give in to immigration reform. Previously, under Trump’s Administration, people could be denied entry to the United States who are vulnerable to health risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, known as Title 42.

With a large percentage of adults in the country having received at least one dose of the vaccine, it is easier to override this rule. While Republicans believe that Biden’s undermining of Trump’s policies caused a larger incoming population of migrants, Democrats argue that it is because of more apparent issues like food insecurity and violence. The decision of whether or not to proceed with changing our immigration system has led Democrats to get creative to meet their goal. One such alternative would be through a budget reconciliation bill that would include immigration provisions, but the approval for it still has major opposition.

It is true that the topic of immigration comes with many perspectives, and by understanding what makes reform so difficult, it could lead to a huge indicator on what to do next. Some politicians fear that by opening their country to immigrants, they would place the United States in a place of danger. Others understand the profound economic impact immigrants have created because of the increasing demand for labor. Although some Americans claim to have had their jobs stolen, it has been found that there are job sectors where there is a need for more employees, which backs up the fact that immigrants are willing to work the jobs Americans discard.

The push for the United States to become more open to immigration will only rise because of how deeply America is connected with the world, the aging population, the rising demand for labor and the fact that no matter the time, whether it be the Great Recession or the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. admits over a 1 million of immigrants each year. Not only does the debate of the contributions of immigrants make reform more difficult, but identifying who would be eligible is a conflicting issue as well since not all stories are one size fits all. For example, in 2013 there was a bill passed outlining a path to citizenship which is viewed as difficult to complete, with others advising that there should be a more protective and concise bill. It is important to take into consideration the difficulties of enacting immigration bills because of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, two thirds of which have lived here for over a decade, making them vital participants in the U.S. economy and culture.

Like I mentioned before, America is a country of immigrants but it is also to be deemed lawful. When people argue against reforming the imigration system, there are lots of fallacies used for evidence. Take the separation of families at the border under the Trump Administration. This policy was supposedly enacted because of U.S. law, but if you dig deeper, you discover that this policy was never put in place to be lawful and that in fact, it was a choice, not an obligation.

But how would one even be able to stop immigration reform? To Democrats, persuading Republicans to support Biden’s new immigration bill is crucial because of a filibuster, which requires 60 signatures to end the debate. With 50 Democrats in the Senate, it is observable that there will be a need for 10 Republicans to sign. Failure to do so will result in the bill never becoming a law. As previously stated, the bill has benefits for both sides and it also includes a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants that involves applying for temporary status for green cards after 5 years and a further 3 years if wanting to become citizens.

Some Republicans believe that this bill will only encourage further unauthorized immigration, but there is more to the story. Even with Trump out of office, we can still detect his presence in the Republican Party, who only strengthened anti immigration sentiments. That being said, there are only a few options that Democrats have to pass the bill and if they decide to end the filibuster, Democrats would have to either change Rule 22 or create a new Senate precedent. The most likely route would be creating a new Senate precedent which entails that a Senate rule is being infringed, that would further lead to a vote where the majority would decide to appeal or support the point of order.

The reason for this to appear more likely is because Democrats are the majority in both Congress and the White House. That is why it is important to take action. Democrats can only be the majority for so long and it is a matter of life and death for both sides, whether fearing for the incoming of violence or fleeing from dangerous gangs. Whatever the case may be, we always find it best to resolve life or death situations presently occurring because those are the people currently being affected instead of leaning towards a possibility that only might happen. Immigration reform is still to be determined, where the debate is most concerned with is how it will be put into action, time is ticking.



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