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At present, the buzz about the great, big hope for illegal immigrants in the US remains a buzz. The immigration reform bill has to pass through the eye of the needle – which, in this case, is   Congress, the voice of the American people. Hence, the caveat, read the provisions of the bill and, eventually, the law, if ever it becomes one. It may not be what you expected.

As it stands, the bill is couched in general terms. Known as the “Immigration Reform that Works for America’s Future Act,” it has  four main components.

These are: (a) continuing to strengthen border security; (b) cracking down on employers who hire undocumented aliens; (c) creating a system for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship, by requiring them to come out in the open, pay their taxes, complete a criminal background check, learn English; and (d) implementing reforms in the existing legal immigration system to benefit families, workers and employers.

It may sound as if there is really nothing new about this immigration reform bill.  We see and hear every day how the government uses its resources to reinforce border security or penalize employers caught hiring illegal aliens.

Recently, the Obama administration clarified the vague provisions of the bill.  But unless and until the bill becomes a law, there is no certainty.

The three areas in the bill worth discussing, either because these are most beneficial to the majority of illegal aliens or it is a novelty in US immigration policy, are the following: First,  the possibility of legitimizing one’s illegal status in this country  will not be an easy road to take because it is  not an all-out “amnesty.”

Rules will be drawn up to provide first for a “provisional stage”   (in reference to the term ‘prospective lawful immigrant’ or PLI) before the illegal aliens may be granted a green card.

Applicants will be required to register their presence, undergo a background check to weed out criminals, pay taxes and penalties, demonstrate English proficiency, etc…  Afterwards, they will be required to get in line, just like all other aspiring immigrants, to wait for the issuance of their green cards.  The process is projected to take eight to 10 years.

Second, the bill refers to the substantial precepts contained in the “Dream Act” that failed to be passed in Congress several times.  The said Act pertains to children who were brought to America at a very young age by their parents who came into this country illegally or legally but lost their status through time. These children are considered innocent and, therefore, not blameworthy for their parents’ wrongful action. They have lived and studied in the US and have assimilated in the American culture. The US government has invested millions of dollars in their education, and so there is no sense in sending them out of the country.  Under the bill, they will be accorded special treatment, and rules will be formulated so they can earn lawful status and, then, citizenship.  For them to avail themselves of the benefits, however, they have to commit to either pursuing a college degree or joining the US Armed Forces.

Third, which I consider a fairly new concept to be introduced, is a proposal to acknowledge the significance of undocumented aliens who have earned advanced degrees (master’s, doctorate, etc.) from US universities by allowing and encouraging them to remain in the US and work for US interests rather than for the interests of international competitors. They can be issued green cards and eventually earn US citizenship.

The government considers it impractical to deport 11 million undocumented aliens.  If the bill becomes a law, the American dream of some illegal aliens might come true, and as a song says, “it can happen to you”.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby
Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states.


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