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Immigration Reform: A Path to Citizenship and Secure Borders

PHOTO: Immigration reform may finally come to fruition. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators unveiled their plan on Monday and today President Obama will lay out his vision. CREDIT: BNHR
PHOTO: Immigration reform may finally come to fruition. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators unveiled their plan on Monday and today President Obama will lay out his vision. CREDIT: BNHR
January 29, 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. - A plan for immigration reform has been announced by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, and a mix of optimism and caution is greeting the proposal.

It includes a path to citizenship for people already in the country, says Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

"They are talking about bringing people who are undocumented out of the shadows and give them some kind of path to citizenship, so I think the recognition that there should be a solution for the people already in the United States, and they should be integrated with full citizenship, is quite important."

The plan rolled out Monday also includes ramped-up border security, a reformed legal immigration system and an employment verification system.

Garcia says one part of the plan that he finds troubling is the push for more border security and enforcement, on top of all the efforts in recent years.

"We have massive enforcement already along the border. We have almost quadrupled the number of border patrol agents. We have built miles of border fencing," according to Garcia. "All of the benchmarks and indicators that we were talking about in 2006, the first round of serious immigration reform discussion, all of those enforcement benchmarks were reached already."

Garcia says he's also concerned that the enforcement push as part of immigration reform isn't so much for security, but for political gain.

"The fact that immigration border enforcement would be a trigger for legalization is very concerning. Who knows when is going to be enough? Who know who's going to determine when this is going to be enough?", he asks. "They are trying to trade off, once again, the well-being of border communities for a legalization program."

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. In North Dakota the figure has doubled during the past 20 years, but remains very small.

Today, President Obama is expected to spell out his own vision for immigration reform.

The proposed immigration reform framework is at bit.ly/WxAPAv.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND