Immigration process too long, complicated

It is easy to blame undocumented immigrants.

After all, they are the real thieves here. They are the ones taking the jobs that Americans deserve. They are the ones sucking away taxpayer money. They are the ones who are making it completely necessary to build a physical wall around our borders.

Right?

The truth is that undocumented immigrants are not coming here because they think they can get rich by mooching off of Americans.

Many immigrants come illegally simply because they do not have the resources or time to apply for and await decision on legal status. A simpler process would improve things for those already applying for legal status and make applying legally more attractive for those considering coming to America undocumented.

“(Undocumented immigrants) see this as a land of opportunity,” said Associate Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Will Pizio. “They see their families and friends and sons and daughters come over and work.”

According to Lizzie Biddle ‘09, programs coordinator for the Center for New North Carolinians, immigrants come here legally and illegally for many reasons.

“It’s jobs and a better future and because they have family here,” said Biddle. “Or terrible things have happened in their own country and so they want to leave.”

Under the current laws, it is almost unreasonably difficult to legally emigrate to the U.S., and undocumented immigrants who are already here face major challenges as well.

“There are a lot of people in this country who want to keep our borders closed,” said Pizio. “(But) there are different aspects to a policy. One is to keep people out and one is … how do we deal with the people that are already here?”

This is a particularly difficult question to answer when it comes to immigrants brought to America as children because they have little connection to their “native” countries.

“No one wants to talk about allowing the (undocumented immigrants brought here as children) to stay,” said Pizio. “They don’t want to have that discussion because that’s the harder discussion.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a legal option put into action for such immigrants less than a year ago.

Under DACA, undocumented residents who immigrated at a young age can apply for a two-year promise of no deportation. Those granted the deferred action can then legally get a driver’s license and work authorization.

What the deferred action option does not offer is any sort of pathway to citizenship, so two years down the line, the applicant is back in the same boat.  Although the process offers some temporary security to undocumented immigrants, it does nothing to fix the root cause of the issue.

“There’s a waiting list for visas from all different countries, and some waiting lists are much longer (than others),” said Biddle. “Right now, they might be working on applications for visas from Mexico from 1990 or from 2000.”

What the system really needs is a reduction in immigration backlogs, and a new proposal created by President Obama aims to do just that.

The changes would also keep undocumented immigrants seeking to apply for citizenship from having to wait more than eight years, though legal immigrants applying for visas would be given priority.

It is unclear whether the plan would work as intended, but attempting to address this problem is a step in the right direction.

Of course, not everyone supports making it easier for those who came to America undocumented to become legal residents.

“(My family) had to work hard to get into this country and secure legal citizenship,” said Timothy Chang, an Early College senior whose parents emigrated from Taiwan. “For those who do not (come legally), it is unfair to us.”

Chang’s family clearly worked to gain access to the jobs and education in the U.S., but Americans born here don’t inherently deserve better opportunities than those born elsewhere.

Immigrants come to America without legal documentation because of the obstacles posed by the application system, but the U.S. can change that. Shortening the wait time and simplifying the application for legal status will benefit everyone.