With election, immigration reform must happen

Giselle Suazo

Our nation, built on the backs of immigrants, is still suffering from an immigration system that is broken, confusing and outdated. In order to mend this crisis, Congress must allow comprehensive legislation that will work for new paths towards citizenship while keeping families united, not divided. 

Immigrants are yearning for a more attainable path to citizenship, one that isn’t riddled with several steps and costly processes — an application costs a whopping $545. One of the steps to complete before gaining U.S. citizenship is obtaining a Green Card, otherwise known as legal permanent residence status. But a Green Card does not give immigrants the same rights as citizenship status does. In addition, obtaining one can take years and may require the seeker to leave the country in order to receive it. 

Marriage to a U.S. citizen and certain other family relationships can entitle immigrants to apply for a green card. But if an immigrant has been under unlawful presence – not legally allowed in the country – for a certain amount of time, they are subject to a ban that can last anywhere from three to 10 years. Students who wish to become a citizen after graduating college can also be subject to this, despite their having lived in the U.S. and having spent substantial time and money on their education.

“The reality that many people let slip away is that we are a nation of immigrants – yet our immigration system is broken and outdated,” Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us, a political advocacy group, said in an article with the Latin Times. “We cannot and should not tear families apart.”

Twenty years ago, former president Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act that put this provision — preventing undocumented immigrants who had overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally from returning to the U.S. unless they’ve waited an extended period of time — into place. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has stated that she will repeal this legislation and work with Congress on mending a system that is desperate for a makeover. 

Our next president should not support an act that places such a severe punishment on people seeking for better opportunities and a higher quality of life. Clinton and Congress have the potential to make a great impact on the lives of 11.5 million people and their families. Immigration reform is long overdue and a country as diverse as ours deserves legislation that does not tear us apart from our loved ones.  

Suazo is a communication studies senior from Honduras. Follow her on Twitter @giselle_suazo.