Immigration reform is a hot topic for debate in New Jersey, where there is an especially strong Hispanic population. Recently, a group of U.S. senators referred to as the “Gang of Eight” created a bipartisan framework to push for immigration reform. Immigration reform and education is necessary in order to help those living in the country as undocumented aliens to understand their rights and to feel comfortable in taking steps to become properly documented.
President Barack Obama also says he will send a bill into Congress if the legislators are not able to reach an agreement on their own. President Obama wants to strengthen border security, come down on employers who hire undocumented workers, reorganize and simplify the path to legal immigration and give undocumented immigrants a way to earn citizenship legally. A recent leak of his proposed plan shows that he envisions prospective legal residence for those here illegally; after eight years, qualified candidates would be able to apply for permanent residence.
Reform slow to come
Immigration reform bills have been introduced in the past, but they have been pushed to the side because they have not been a politically high priority or they have become too polarizing. For the people affected, though, there is nothing more important. It is clear to many that the system is not working. According to the South Jersey Times, deportation courts are scheduling into the year 2015, and some people have to wait 25 years to get their green cards.
It is even harder for people who are undocumented because they feel as if they cannot do anything about changes that are needed. Often, undocumented immigrants feel as if they do not have a voice and cannot stand up for themselves or others in their situation because the government does not recognize them.
New Jersey Hispanic community taking a stand
The Mexican American Association of Southern New Jersey has stood up and told the government that changes are needed. Over the years, the group has rallied and has advocated for immigration reform. The group also supports voting efforts in the Latino community. According to an article on the issue in the South Jersey Times, the president of this organization believes their advocacy has worked and that now both Republicans and Democrats understand that they need to work together in order to better serve this growing group of citizens.
Another important issue in the dialogue about immigration reform is education. Currently, illegal immigrants are not allowed to qualify for in-state tuition and must pay more even though they are New Jersey residents. There are bills in the state legislature that would allow these undocumented students to pay in-state tuition in New Jersey, and there has been a lot of support for the proposed laws. These efforts would make a great difference in the lives of many undocumented immigrants approaching college age, considering that by some estimates there are approximately 60,000 young undocumented immigrants living in New Jersey.
Hopefully, legislators will hear out immigration activists and understand that immigration reform is needed.
New Jersey residents struggling with immigration issues should contact an attorney experienced in immigration law to determine prospective eligibility should comprehensive immigration reform become a reality.