The New York Times posted two brilliant articles on immigration in the past week. One revealed a positive (and unintentional) consequence of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and the other showed a negative ramification. But they both highlight the urgent need for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Angy Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. Many undocumented immigrants are fearful of reporting crime to law enforcement because of the possibility of deportation. But Obama’s policy of deferred action — allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for the right to temporarily remain in the country and work under certain conditions — allowed Rivera to apply for a visa for victims of crimes. Unfortunately, though, deferred action only amounts to a stopgap solution because it only lasts for two years.
The other article centered on immigrants held in solitary confinement. The Obama administration has increased the immigration detention population, and undocumented immigrants are typically given sentences without end dates and stay in confinement until they sign deportation papers. This article contains many harrowing anecdotes of people subject to the unimaginable anguish of losing all human contact. Delfino Quiroz was placed in solitary confinement for four months “for his own protection” because he is gay, for example.
These two articles epitomize the need for immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. As Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said on Real Time with Bill Maher March 22, anything short of a path to citizenship would create two classes of people in America: citizens and those who work for citizens. The United States has already lived that history, and we need to confront this issue as one of civil rights. Creating a permanent underclass in America is immoral and does little to address the issues faced by immigrants who find themselves in confinement for civil (not criminal) infractions or for those who are victims of violence. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans — and a majority of Republicans — now support a pathway to citizenship. Leaders across party lines must pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship as soon as possible to bring these victims out of the shadows and into full-fledged American life.