A Mexican national crossed the border when he was 18 years old, and five years later he married a U.S. citizen. He is now 32 years old and has three children.
Over the years, he has traveled to Mexico to visit family. Under the current law, he could never get a green card, nor is he eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
What needs to happen
Comprehensive immigration reform has consistently garnered bipartisan support. Former President George W. Bush backed a bipartisan Senate bill, but it failed to pass in 2007.
President Barack Obama built on this bipartisan support and promised to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority. In 2013, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, and it seemed as though reform was finally happening. Unfortunately, in the past year, the House of Representatives has refused to discuss the issue.
Faced with the House’s intransigence, Obama promised he would exercise executive action, which may happen soon now that the November election is over.
For now, we need to focus on the dire need for immigration reform and how it affects our communities and where people work. We need to amend the permanent bar, section 212(a)(9)(C), to allow immigrants who travel between contiguous countries (Mexico and Canada) to apply to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents.
The man mentioned earlier has consistently filed tax returns and has no criminal record. It is a shame he must constantly fear being deported and separated from his family.
Land or water travelers at issue
The case of a 54-year-old Chinese national also demonstrates the need for reform. He came to the U.S. in 1992 in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests. He traveled by boat for 40 days before reaching California.
He was married in 1998; his wife was a legal permanent resident who received her green card through political asylum because she feared being persecuted in China. In 2003 she became a U.S. citizen. The couple has two children together, who are currently attending Brown University and New York University on full scholarships. He has no criminal record and has been filing tax returns since 1995.
Unfortunately, he could never apply for a green card. In order to obtain a green card under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, an immigrant must be “admitted, inspected, or paroled” at the border. Immigrants who arrive by air and are released are considered inspected and thus are eligible to eventually adjust status.
Those who arrive by land or water are not considered to have been “admitted, inspected or paroled” and are ineligible to adjust. This is absolutely absurd. Arriving by water, land and air should be considered the same under immigration law.
In the months ahead, I will continue to write about these and other pressing issues. I feel honored and humbled to be working in this field, to be on the ground soldiering with the Department of Homeland Security, promoting our country’s greatness.