The Time for Immigration Reform is Now

There is no doubt that immigration reform has become a contentious topic over the past several years. As it has been throughout history, immigrants are characterized as being inherently evil. Look on Facebook or other social media and you’re likely to find anti-immigrant propaganda, charging these individuals with stealing American jobs or destroying “traditional” American values.

According to Philip Martin, author of “Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective,” illegal immigration has made up close to half of our population growth since 1990. He explains that if current trends continue, the white population will fall from two-thirds of America to one half, which, for some, is a scary prospect.

But these aren’t the only reasons why we should be fighting for immigration reform. It’s becoming more clear that there’s a human element behind this debate: that is, the millions of young adults and their families that simply want to participate in the economy, go to school and get a good paying job.

The Washington State Senate did a commendable thing by passing the Real Hope Act, which ensures that young, undocumented immigrants can take advantage of financial aid. This makes sense: anyone should have the opportunity to pursue the American dream, no matter what their skin tone or country of origin.

We should do more than provide all students a pathway to an affordable education. What about focusing on reforming our laws to provide immigrants a pathway to citizenship?

The truth is, undocumented immigrants live in our communities, pay taxes, and participate in our economy by taking the jobs that no one else wants. What’s worse, there’s no recourse for these individuals when they’re shorted money on their paychecks or forced to work in dangerous, illegal situations. Being a country that supposedly values human rights, disregarding this is unacceptable.

In President Obama’s State of the Union Address he once again urged Congress to act on immigration reform. After all, it was only last year that the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill which included a pathway to citizenship. The House, however, is determined to fight tooth and nail. They’ve yet to act on the bill which passed the Senate, instead advocating a piecemeal approach when lives are in limbo.

Conservatives contend that President Obama couldn’t be trusted to implement immigration reform even if a bill was passed. They’re intent on playing political games instead of finding a solution.

Besides being the right thing to do, implementing immigration reform would be a net gain for everyone, including white middle class Americans. Allowing undocumented workers a path to citizenship means that the unemployed are no longer competing with those undocumented workers who are paid under the table and less than minimum wage.

In all, it’s time to stop treating immigration reform with an “us versus them” mentality. Instead, lets focus on ensuring that individuals have a pathway to citizenship, the ability to raise their families within the United States, the opportunity to go to school, and the promise of fair treatment under the law.

Illustration by Felicia Chang.

Illustration by Felicia Chang.

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