Eight U.S. senators — four Democrats and four Republicans — officially filed an 844-page immigration reform bill last week.
After a quick glance through the political and legal jargon, several points stood out to me: increased security on the southern border, a 13-year path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million-plus undocumented migrants, and a new visa status seeking to help agriculture employees.
First, I must commend the senators for taking a huge step toward creating a process to help so many people step out of the shadows. Many of the 11 million undocumented migrants came to this country following the American Dream and they have committed themselves to reaching it. They are a tremendous workforce and a formidable cultural contribution that this nation of immigrants ought to recognize.
But I still need to ask, how does this immigration bill affect me and my legal status in the country that I have chosen as home?
I am what my friends like to call a “legal alien.” Not a green person from outer space but an international transplant from the Dominican Republic who came to this country for a better professional opportunity than I would find elsewhere. I have lived here since the fall of 2006 and currently have a work visa sponsored by my employer. It is set to expire in 2016.
The proposed bill talks about my visa group — the H1-B visa — by increasing the number authorized each fiscal year. It does not, however, further outline or change what steps I need to take to obtain my permanent residency. Do I fall under the merit-based path to citizenship, even though I will never receive the status of Registered Provisional Immigrant? Are there any incentives for employers if they offer sponsorship for green card status, instead of just H1-B?
As it stands in current law and according to my immigration attorney, an employer needs to sponsor the green card process, but not many like to because it is complicated, relatively costly and lengthy. My greatest fear is that my employer, current or future, will not want to sponsor me and because of that I would have to leave the country where I have committed myself to work, the country where I want to establish my familial roots.
How will this immigration reform help me stay? My fears are genuine.
This proposal is by no means the end of the debate. The senators have shown that compromises can happen between two political parties that as of late have not shown a great willingness to bend.
Immigration reform is necessary and long overdue. There is a long road ahead, and I anxiously await the outcome.
Lucia Suarez is a reporter for the Rutland Herald.MORE IN Commentary
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