SAN JUAN, January 31 - Maybe those senators that comprise the so-called ‘Gang of Eight’ don’t realize how long the line to citizenship really is?
How long will they keep us there? Will it be 10, 15, maybe 20 years?
For the moment, there are more questions than answers from members of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) who above all else are calling on senators in Washington to offer more visas to speed up the process to citizenship.
Leaders with LUPE and Project ARISE held a press conference in San Juan on Tuesday morning to say they are not happy with all the elements of the senators’ plan for comprehensive immigration reform, which was unveiled Monday.
“In order for the immigration system to avoid collapse, they (senators) have to offer more visas so people don’t have to wait in line. We don’t have a problem with waiting in line, it’s the number of years we are waiting in line,” said LUPE Executive Director, Juanita Valdez-Cox. “What we say is, if you want people to wait in line, that’s fine, but you need to offer more visas so that those visas help speed up the process. You want people to wait in line, fix the line and offer more visas so people don’t have to wait for 20 years.”
The Senate group is comprised of four Democrats, Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and four Republicans, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Flake and John McCain, both of Florida, and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina.
Under their proposal, undocumented immigrants would be allowed to register with the government, pay a fine, and then be given probationary legal status allowing them to work, but ultimately, they would have to "go to the end of the line" and apply for permanent status.
“The concerns are the long years of waiting, the taxes they have to pay back, and also the cost,” said Valdez-Cox. “How much is the government going to charge? Right now, they are charging $480 for the DREAMers. We want it to be accessible. If you’re serious about the 11 million that have helped build this economy, don’t make it so difficult.”
Members of LUPE made their comments before U.S. President Barack Obama gave his speech on Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas, calling on Congress to “act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country right now.”
Obama’s speech outlined several parameters for comprehensive immigration reform including his aim to continue strengthening security at the border, and by making it clear to the 11 million individuals who are here illegally that they have to “earn their way to citizenship.”
“We’ve got to lay out a path -- a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally. That's only fair, right?” Obama said in his speech.
“So that means it won’t be a quick process but it will be a fair process. And it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to a green card and eventually to citizenship,” the President said.
“And the third principle is we’ve got to bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century because it no longer reflects the realities of our time. For example, if you are a citizen, you shouldn’t have to wait years before your family is able to join you in America. You shouldn't have to wait years.”