Jan Schneider supports changes to immigration policy that would include a path to permanent legal status followed by citizenship for undocumented immigrants. There are, however, exceptions to this broad statement. Also, for the most part, such a grant should be part of compendium of comprehensive and humane immigration reform and border protection measures. Meanwhile, the current separation of children from parents as part of the Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy is inhumane and un-American.

Dreamers

The first issue that cries out for immediate action by Congress is the plight of the Dreamers. The March 5, 2017 deadline arbitrarily imposed by President Trump for termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections absent action by Congress has come and gone. On February 26, however, the Supreme Court came to the rescue by declining to overturn two lower court rulings and thereby continuing DACA. This protected DACA participants from deportation and termination of work authorization, but it otherwise left their lives largely in limbo.

Moreover, Dreamers and DACA are not synonymous. The term “Dreamers” originated with the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act,” first introduced in 2001. DACA is an Obama-era program providing relief to close to 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants. Including those protected by DACA, the going estimate is that more than 3.6 million unauthorized immigrants entered the United States before the age of 18 and are therefore Dreamers.

Jan supports the provisions of the current DREAM Act of 2017 (S.1615 & H.R.3440). The identical bills, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), would provide an eventual path to citizenship for Dreamers who have DACA status or are undocumented. To qualify, an alien must have: (a) been continuously present in the United States for four years preceding enactment of the legislation; (b) been younger than 18 on the initial date of entry; (c) not been deemed inadmissible on criminal, security, terrorism, or other grounds; (d) not participated in persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;(e) not been convicted of specified federal or state offenses; and (f) fulfilled specified educational requirements.

Temporary Protected Status

Another group that needs especially rapid action is people enjoying Temporary Protected Status. Under the TPS program, the Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to declare eligible individuals from designated countries afflicted by armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. While the program has long been supported by presidents of both major parties, President Trump is intent on ending it. He has already terminated TPS status for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal and Honduras. With reference to the TPS program, Trump reportedly asked during a meeting on immigration: “Why do we want all these people from “shithole countries” coming here?” Particularly concerned about the 50,000 TPS recipients from Haiti who reside in Florida, three Representatives from Florida – Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), Alcee Hastings (D) and Frederica Wilson (D) — have signed on among 20 cosponsors to the ASPIRE-TPS Act of 2017 (H.R.4384). It would let every person covered by TPS on January 1, 2017 apply for permanent residency by proving extreme hardship if forced to return home. Our campaign supports this bill.

Comprehensive Reform

The immigration issue is, of course, much broader than the above. Most creditable estimates seem to put the number of undocumented immigrants/illegal aliens currently in this country in the range of 11 to 12 million. About half are thought to be Mexicans, although their proportion has declined sharply in recent years. The sheer number of people involved cries out for a comprehensive solution.

The most recent real effort in Congress broadly to address United States immigration policy — including the millions of undocumented immigrants/illegal aliens in the country — appears to have been the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744). This bill was introduced by SenatorCharles Schumer (D-NY) and was co- sponsored by the other seven members of the “Gang of Eight” a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who wrote and negotiated the bill. It would have provided a path to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants. It would also have doubled the number of border agents to 40,000, added 700 miles of fencing on the southern border and even expanded use of drones to patrol that border.

No one was thrilled by S.744, but many supported it. The bill passed the Senate by 68 to 32 on June 27, 2013, but it was not considered by the House and died in the 113th Congress. Although a lot has changed in the past five years, we may have to look backwards-to-the future and reexamine the parameters of such a compromise. A comprehensive package should include, among other things: (a) a path to permanent residence and eventually citizenship for those already in the country meeting specified conditions (no criminal records, etc.); (b) review, modernization and enforcement of temporary worker programs; (c) penalties for employers who knowingly bring in and/or hire unauthorized workers; (d) clearer requirements for treatment of temporary workers so as not to undermine wages and working conditions of U.S. workers; and (e) rational, humane and effective border control measures.

Border Issues

Jan opposes the wall Trump wants to build along the Mexican border – even in the unlikely event Mexico were agreeable to paying for some or all of it. Cost estimates for the Trump wall vary incredibly, from about $10 to $70 billion, depending on the source. Moreover, such estimates typically fail to include the costs of eminent domain, and two-thirds of the border land in question is said to be private or state-owned. But more importantly, the wall is extremely unlikely to be effective.

In Jan’s view, a more promising and humane approach to limiting future illegal immigration would be to increase penalties on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. We have the National Instant Background Check System for guns and could undoubtedly develop something similar to NICS for employment. After fixing immigration laws, this country needs to enforce them, even in the face of intense pressures to overlook violations.

Separation of Children

Meanwhile, 2500 or more migrant children are reported to have been separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border by mid-June 2018. This is the result of a Trump administration “zero-tolerance” policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally entering the country. President Donald Trump persists, however, in blaming a nonexistent Democratic immigration law.

Experts say that this separation of children will have long-term health effects on the kids. Moreover, many of these families are escaping countries experiencing widespread violence and suppression of basic human rights, including Honduras and El Salvador. The whole separation policy is not only morally indefensible, but also a violation of United States commitments under international law.