A clear and fair immigration reform

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With the engines of immigration reform finally turned on, now we must make sure that this much expected train doesn’t veer off track. An effective reform must seek to legalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country and put them on a path to citizenship; increase the number of visas and green cards for foreign workers that the labor market needs; implement mechanisms to enforce immigration laws in an efficient, fair and humane way.

However, opposition lawmakers—under growing pressure after losing support from Latino voters and seeking to fix the broken immigration system—are trying to please with a light, watered-down reform.

Immigration reform is like a huge sancocho—forgive the analogy—that must feed many people. The soup being prepared by Senate Republicans serves mostly those immigrants who are highly qualified in science, technology and engineering, an aspect of reform with bipartisan support. This week, a powerful group of technology companies, supported in part by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced a social-media campaign to pressure lawmakers to support “immigration reform”—as if that were the main objective.

We welcome the effort of these companies, however, its goal is the easiest part of this mission. The priority (and the toughest part) is to fairly legalize millions of undocumented students and workers who toil next to us without legal or civic guarantees.

The proposals that have come to light are worrisome. The White House’s unofficial plan, recently revealed by a national newspaper, involves providing a temporary type of status that would lead to residency after an eight-year wait. This seeks to satisfy those requesting to send the undocumented to “the back of the line,” after those who lawfully applied for residency.

On the other hand, Senate lawmakers are considering providing undocumented immigrants temporary status but without residency, for an indefinite period of time until a series of measures (still unclear) to decrease illegal immigration are in effect.

The past three administrations (including George W. Bush’s two terms) spent more money enforcing immigration than any other administration. What is exactly the goal of the Republicans who say they strongly support reform?

Historically, highly controversial legislation changes, like updating immigration policies, end up agreeing to so many half-measures that in the end, the victory is a doing-nothing-would-have-been-worse.

Negotiations are underway, but what needs to be clear is: What is the task? The immigration reform law must provide a clear, fair solution for students and undocumented workers. That is the yardstick with which to measure this renewed effort.