Once Upon A Time In America

Something needs to be done about immigration reform. Whether you like it or not, the truth is that approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants live in this nation. Continuing to ignore the possibility of reform would be a great injustice to these people and to our country.

At this moment, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill is being discussed in the House of Representatives. Earlier this month, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate approved immigration reform bill S. 744 with a vote of 68-32.

Now it’s in the House, where the future of an immigration reform isn’t as optimistic; however, it is possible.

As it stands now, the bill provides more opportunity for a path to citizenship, checks on employers seeking to exploit undocumented immigrants, streamlines legal immigration, and provides a plan that will tighten border security.

Though I am personally not the biggest fan of a militarized border, this bill is the one pragmatic option for reform we’ve seen in the last decade.

The improved path to citizenship would allow for many of our peers —DREAMers — to have access to an expedited process for Legal Permanent Residence and citizenship.

It would also help agricultural workers, families of visa-holding STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professionals, and families of Legal Permanent Residents gain some sort of citizenship (be it LPR status, working visas, etc.) Additionally, it would create more legal protection for undocumented workers facing unfair exploitation or deportation. It’s good for the people and believe it or not, it’s good for the economy.

In its current state, the bill would reduce the deficit by $800 billion in the next 20 years — a number provided by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  Still not good enough for those of you who refuse to believe that immigration reform is a sound economic choice? Well, fortunately this bill will create 3.2 million new jobs and improve Social Security — a number provided by the Social Security Administration. With this bill, we will  have more tax-paying citizens, more relief for the deficit and more jobs.

However, those fighting for the benefits of this bill are facing an uphill battle.  Speaker John Boehner has made it very clear to supporters of this bill that the bill may not even be put to a vote. Other House Republicans have attacked portions of the bill that would essentially strip it of a path to citizenship. However, one thing they are adamant about is augmenting border security.

Look, I want to limit the entrance of drugs through our borders as much as the next person, but I don’t believe that border security should be prioritized over the path to citizenship. What’s going to make this country stronger is making the people stronger, not the wall.

As it already stands, the bill would provide for the doubling of border patrol agents to 40,000, require 700 miles of fencing and total to about 40 billion in spending over the next 10 years. However, this doesn’t seem to be enough for Republicans that insist on even tighter border security restrictions and border spending.

Many in the GOP are willing to eliminate the path to citizenship while supporting a more militarized border. That is not what this country needs.

We’ve heard it time and time again: this is a nation of immigrants, built by immigrants. What we need to do is give them the respect and opportunity they deserve. Every day undocumented workers and students try to improve their lives and transversely improve this country through tireless hard work and determination. I know it because I have seen it and I live it.

My personal history is a story of immigrants. About 45 years ago, my grandfather came to this country as an undocumented immigrant. His goal was the same goal shared by millions of immigrants now and then: to make life better for his family.

After his father died, my grandfather took it upon himself to come to America and find a way to provide for himself, his mother and his siblings. For decades he worked in various jobs in manual labor from factories to horse stables.

He continued to work hard to gain enough money to marry his sweetheart and apply for citizenship, which was not an easy feat. Two years after becoming citizens, my grandparents opened a small restaurant, which would eventually help put their children and me through college. In short, my grandfather’s story is the story of a man who created and achieved his own American Dream.

That was one man, a man of many, his story could be the story of so many others if we allow it. Opening the American Dream to hard working undocumented immigrants will open a world of opportunity for the improvement of our nation.

Undocumented or not, people living in this country working for the betterment of their lives and the betterment of this country should be supported not deported.

Their story is our story.


Sarah S. Menendez is a second-year literary journalism and political science double major. She can be reached at smenende@uci.edu.