Rebuild citizenship road

Steven Solis

Steven Solis

On behalf of AB540 students at Citrus College, Congress should create a pathway to American citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, who came here as children and have been living here for years.

This issue has been a shambling block in the ongoing debate in congress, which is working to overhaul the nations immigration policy.

Many students at Citrus College qualify for AB540 and the DREAM act.

AB540 represents the undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in California. To qualify students must have a high school diploma and be attending an accredited public institution.

The DREAM act, a bipartisan federal proposal that offers qualifying unauthorized youth a six-year conditional path to citizenship, has not yet been passed. The provisions require completion of a college degree or two years of military service.

Citrus Dreamers and AB540 students have worked so hard to attend college and have a passion for achieving their goals and living successful lives.

The new bill would allow unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to attain lawful permanent residency.

The U.S. immigration policy has been a hot topic for decades. During his presidency, George W. Bush had plans for immigration policy that never became a reality. In his first term President Barack Obama promised to overhaul immigration reform but nothing was accomplished.

Now, immigration reform is again the focus of intense negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” house representatives drew up and released a proposal for immigration reform on April 17. Under the agreement, a limited number of temporary visas would be issued to foreign workers in low-paid professions. After 10 years, workers with visas would be eligible to apply for green cards that offer legal permanent residency. Three years later, they would be able to petition to become American citizens.

While the debate continues, Obama offered a way for many immigrants who are in the country illegally to avoid deportation.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals went into effect on Aug 15, 2012. It does not grant legal status to AB540 but at least it protects immigrants from deportation for two years.

The Gang of Eight bill for immigration reform is also a solution for unauthorized workers who are already here, doing mostly of the low-skilled work such as agricultural labor. The only way this system can become fair and organized is if these workers status is legalized.

Opponents of immigration reform don’t want foreign workers to take jobs away from Americans or depress American wages, while business groups welcome the lowest-priced workers.

One solution under the agreement states that foreign workers would have to receive wages at least as high as the typical American wage in that occupation.

The immigration overhaul should be about making sure people are not exploited by employers and others. It is about giving families the security of knowing that they can live peacefully and securely without fearing deportation.

This pathway to citizenship should not be so easy as to invite others from abroad to abuse the system. But it should be reasonable, straightforward and fair.

Students at Citrus College who qualify for AB540 have lived in the United States for most of their lives. Though by no fault of their own they are caught in a battle that offers no resolution. These students should not be punished for crimes they did not commit.  It is an injustice to our students who only want to contribute to their communities and society and who want more than anything to be recognized for what they are: Americans.

This is a call for our government to do what’s right and support immigration reform. The last time Congress passed immigration reform was in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president. We have been waiting long enough. It is time to make a change for the sake of justice.

It is clear that immigration reform is the best hope for immigration reform in the country.

The bill is currently under consideration in the Senate and could go to a vote in the house before the legislative recess of July 4.

Contact senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer or your Representative in the House and tell them that you support immigration reform with an earned pathway to citizenship: