The bill proposed by four Democratic and four Republican senators would offer a 13-year pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who are already here. To discourage future immigrants from entering illegally, the plan also calls for increased border security before undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for a green card.
Members of the Houston Coalition for Commonsense Immigration Reform held a news conference responding to the proposed bill.
“We applaud their efforts and we’re optimistic that we’re closer than ever to making history. This is the year. This is the time.”
That’s Elsa Caballero with the Service Employees International Union, one of the groups that make up the coalition.
Coalition members say the bill is far from perfect but a step in the right direction.
Maria Jiménez is with Houston United, a coalition of different organizations involved in immigration issues.
She says the part of the bill that she least agrees with is that stronger border security is required before unauthorized immigrants can apply for legalization.
“They’ve been here for so long, some people 20 years, 15 years, and without a legal status and it shouldn’t be condition on whether or not the border is going to be secure.”
She says the Obama administration has already invested heavily in border security. She also says the proposed cut-off date of Dec. 31, 2011, is arbitrary and leaves many ineligible who have entered since.
Cesar Espinosa is a so-called “DREAMer” who came to the U.S. with his parents as a child. He has been granted temporary status but says if the immigration reform bill gets passed, he will be able to become a legal resident and eventually a U.S. citizen.
“As of right now, we’re not able travel, so I haven’t seen my grandparents in over 20 years. I haven’t been back to my home country. I’ve been raised here and I love this country to death but at the same time I wish I could go and visit other parts of the world and go back and most importantly see my family.”
Some Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, have expressed concerns about the part of the bill that would provide a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. Cruz has said that is not fair to those who patiently wait for years in order to immigrate legally.