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U.S.: “Adios” to immigration reform.

 

President Barack H. Obama, "Adios" to immigration reform.

President Barack H. Obama, "Adios" to immigration reform.

Today I had pan de miga sandwiches with a Chilean friend at an Argentinean restaurant in Miami. The food is great, the service is fantastic, plus you can buy the best wine from Mendoza, alfajores, longanizas and all sorts of delicacies from that great South American country.

The restaurant is always full of customers, mostly from Latin America. After all it is located in a Hispanic neighborhood called Doral.

U.S. technology needs thousands of skilled foreign workers every year.

U.S. technology needs thousands of skilled foreign workers every year.

While I sat there and looked at people eating I wondered how many where undocumented, although many did not fit the image most Americans have of Latino immigrants. We Hispanics know that not all Latin American immigrants in the United States come running across the border to pick tomatoes at a farm in California or nannies in New York City. Many, specifically the ones with college education managed to came with tourist visas and have been able to stay. Some managed to get good jobs despite the fact they don’t have work permits, while others, the ones the media focuses on, are the less educated people that seek jobs in agricultural and construction.

Whatever education they have had, there are more than 12 million immigrants living and working illegally in the United States. Some say the number could be as high as 20 or 30 million.

Immigration Meeting during 2009 Presidential Honeymoon with Americans

Immigration Meeting during 2000 Presidential Honeymoon with Americans

House Representative, Luis Gutierrez of the Democratic Party, doesn’t worry about how many there are or where they are from. He wants to legalize their status and incorporate them to society and to the economy as well.

I congratulate him for presenting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP).

His proposal contemplates a path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants who have played by the rules. This means that they’ve paid taxes and have not been convicted for any crime. It also addresses family reunification which has become a big problem because of the issue of deportations. Many children born in the United States to undocumented foreign parents have been separated from them because they were deported. I’ve been with children in that situation and it’s horrible and inhumane.

Another provision is aimed at reducing immigration backlogs and assist immigrant students pursuing an education here. National security and effective enforcement measures are also included in this bill proposal as well as improving conditions of detention, verifying employment authorization and improving conditions of detention.

Sanjay Mavinkurve, Google Engineer lives in Canada because his wife can´t get a work visa in the U.S.

Sanjay Mavinkurve, Google Engineer lives in Canada because his wife can´t get a work visa in the U.S.

Many of these issues have been addressed in other bills presented in the past and although everyone acknowledges the immigration system is broken and President Barack Obama wants to approve something this year, I’m not very optimistic.

In 2005 and 2006 immigration reform proposals where debated in Congress and Senate, but none solved the dilemma of what to do with the millions of undocumented workers. The only thing that was approved was the border fence. Why would 2010 be any different?

Legislators are not interested in this. Midterm elections are in November and as things are right now, no politician will risk his seat by endorsing a bill that addresses such a touchy subject. People are interested in the economy and getting their jobs back.

When I covered Latinos issues, legislators used “war on terrorism” and security as a pretext to increase control at the borders and that’s how the border fence was approved. The entire debate on what to do with millions of undocumented workers turned into a security issue.  At the end of the day, the flow of immigrants was controlled but the problem of what to do with the ones inside the country was completely forgotten.

Every year, U.S. Tech companies roll the dice for few highly skilled worker visas

U.S. Tech Companies need 200000 visas for highly skilled foreign workers each year but the annual lottery is for just 65000 visas

Immigration reform is like health reform, everyone knows that the system is broken and it must change but there are so many interest groups involved that will be affected with the changes that it is very hard to do anything.

Another thing is that whether we like it or not, there is an anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States. I recently spoke to an editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization that monitors hate groups and he told me that the sentiment against Latinos is strong.

A  new study released by the Center of American Progress says that legalizing undocumented workers would yield 1.5 trillion dollars to the US economy in the next 10 years, but this is hard to believe if they are downsizing your company or your best friend is about to lose his house.

If the economy doesn’t pick up nobody will be interested in immigration. How do you convince Americans that have lost their work that legalizing millions of immigrant’s workers and making the come out of the shadows will not jeopardize their intents to get a job?

As far as the H-1B visa which a foreign worker can obtain if he is sponsored by a company in the United States, there are only 65,000 available per year. We still have to see if Congress is willing to double this figure as it did in 2000 with the boom of the dotcoms. But if there are no jobs out there I don’t see why they would extend the H-1B program.

Like 2005 and 2006 in 2010 adios immigration reform!