The President, the Gang of 8, and Immigration Reform

Feb 05, 2013

By Helly Lee and Lavanya Mohan

Last week, the President and the Senate’s bi-partisan Gang of 8 each introduced broad outlines of proposals to reform our broken immigration system. This is tremendous progress as immigration has remained a contentious issue in Congress and decision makers have steered away from addressing the issue for many years. However, since the November 2012 elections, immigration reform has since taken center stage among priority issues for the Administration and Congress. 

While there is great optimism over these proposals, many questions remain; including how long undocumented immigrants must wait and how many hurdles they may have to overcome before getting their “green cards.” Both, the Senate and House are likely to introduce legislation in the coming months, detailing the specifics of reform. CLASP will play close attention as these details are hashed out.

Immigration reform has the potential to support economic growth and improve job quality. While immigrants have long been a vital part of the U.S. economy, those without documentation live and work in the shadows, surviving on low wages in jobs with few protections for their safety and well-being. For example, recent research in the domestic worker sector revealed that 85% of undocumented immigrants who encounter problems with their working conditions in the previous 12 months did not complain because they feared their immigration status would be used against them. In addition, the same report showed that domestic workers, who are disproportionately immigrant women, experience acute financial hardships because of low wages, many indicating that their most basic needs go unmet. 

Immigration reform will also affect millions of U.S. citizen children growing up in mixed status households where one or more family members are undocumented. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 95% of children under age 6 in immigrant families are U.S.-born citizen children. Through immigration reform, the ability of immigrant parents to naturalize will ensure that families are not separated through deportation and that parents have access to work opportunities that can better support their families.

Immigration reform should not only be about visas, but should also include the programs and services that enable immigrants to integrate fully into society, succeed in the workforce, and share in the labor and economic protections that we have agreed upon. The Federal government should pay its fair share of these costs, and not leave them solely to the states and cities where immigrants reside.  As immigration reform moves from concept to legislation, CLASP will remain vigilant about the impact proposed policies will have on low income families and communities. CLASP supports efforts that ensure the protection of workers, the ability of families and individuals to access services and benefits they are eligible for, and opportunities for immigrants to integrate fully into the workforce and society.

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