by Bryan Herrera

There are an estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States seeking a pathway to citizenship. Should we grant them that pathway? Do they deserve it? Why is immigration reform suddenly a hot topic? Perhaps the answer can be found in the historic Latino voter turnout that occurred in the recent presidential election. Whatever the reason is, let us not forget that these undocumented immigrants deserve to be treated like humans, and are more than just votes.

So what is immigration reform? Immigration reform in our current time is a pathway for those eleven million undocumented immigrants to become citizens. The heart and core of this group is led by young professional college student advocates who, in 2012, pushed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program allows students to obtain workers permits and reside in the United States, without fear of deportation. Many Hispanic advocates thought that it was not enough; students need to renew their DACA paperwork every two years, and they lost out on job opportunities provided by the government because they lack citizenship.

We focus on the students, because before we talked of immigration reform we talked more specifically about the Dream Act.  The Dream Act is a pathway to citizenship for students who have completed a minimum of two years of college education, have no criminal background, and pay a fine. These are the immigrants who pushed for a higher Latino voter turnout, who mailed and protested against legislators. These students deserve and have earned a right to citizenship, but legislators have mixed them together with the other immigrants — including those who had not taken advantage of the scholastic opportunities that the United States has offered. This lays a burden on those hardworking students who have done all that society has asked them to do.

Should we allow all immigrants to walk a path to citizenship, or just some? The President, along with Senators, has built a foundation of requirements that would allow all to walk. By these requirements, immigrants have to get in the back of a line and wait for all current applications to be processed. This is a fair request. They also seek to strengthen border security before beginning to grant citizenship. Improving and updating the immigration system is a priority; the current system is too slow and is just now beginning to process applications from the 1990s. Another requirement asks government to regulate and improve documentation-checking for employing, and crack down on businesses who provide work for the undocumented population.

Immigration reform has always existed, and it continues to be debated. With our current leaders, legislators, and advocates, we can work together and push towards a better immigration system, fewer separated families, and a better America.

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