The U.S. Senate bill S.744 requires that a series of enforcement measures or “triggers” go into effect before immigrants can even begin the legalization process. Those include the Southern Border Fencing Strategy, an electronic exit system at all air and sea ports, and of course additional border patrol agents.
Since the last major legalization program for unauthorized immigrants, in 1986, the federal government has spent an estimated $186.8 billion on immigration enforcement. During that time, the unauthorized population has tripled in size, to 11 million. That’s not because $186.6 billion wasn’t enough to get the job done. It’s because it was spent in an effort to enforce immigration laws that have consistently failed to match either the U.S. economy’s demand for workers or immigrants’ natural desire to be reunited with their families.
As a result, we keep throwing good money after bad, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. More concretely, the federal government has met nearly every “metric” for border security that appeared in the 2006, 2007 and 2010 immigration-reform bills in the Senate, yet new metrics are continually created to replace the old ones, and the finish line keeps moving farther away. The enforcement-first approach to unauthorized immigration could more accurately be called “enforcement forever,” because there is no end in sight.
With that said, how long will it really take immigrants to run through the process? What do Hispanics in Carson City think of the bill? I took an informal poll involving people who came through Hispanic Connection of Northern Nevada throughout the week. Several saw it as a political game by the president. Some expressed concern about the time line of events, noting that they knew of friends with family petitions dating to 1998 that are just now being considered. They wondered if they, too, would have to wait for the border to be secure before moving forward.
One woman who previously lived in Canada said the system there seemed much more efficient. There, she said, a person immediately gets a work visa. Children get student visas, which allows one to get a Social Security number, which it turn allows him or her to get a driver’s license or identification card. That way, she said, the government can keep better track of immigrants and of course starts raising revenue from them.
Hispanics want to jump on the immigration train, but they are concerned about the conductor. As one friend put it, “The bottom line: It’s the political reality of the world we live in.”
As a side note, I would like to give my condolences to the family of Larry Mayes, who just passed away. I know there is a bass guitar waiting for you in heaven.
Michael Alvarez is the director of Hispanic Connection of Northern Nevada.