Speak Up: Will New Reforms Fix U.S. Immigration System?

California Senators Boxer and Feinstein support the new bipartisan plan that was announced Monday.

Millions of Californian workers who immigrated to the United States illegally could receive provisional status to remain living and working in the state if a new bipartisan effort at immigration reform is accepted.

The compromise plan was announced Monday by a group of eight U.S. senators and immediately generated headlines for its forgiveness of undocumented workers who do not have criminal records and the new crackdowns that would be implemented, CNN Politics reported.

Border controls would be tightened—including the use of drones to patrol the US-Mexico border—and there would be more effort to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers.

The senators, in their proposal, said they aim "to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization process for individuals who are currently here."

Read the plan here

But some Sonoma County immigrant advocate criticized the plan for what they describe as an "enforcement first" approach.

"I am very troubled by the failure to address the enormous backlogs in legal, family-unity immigration," said Richard Coshnear, a well-known immigration attorney and immigrant advocate.  

"We need an alternative plan, perhaps from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus or Progressive Caucus or both, which recognizes that "enforcement first" is all we've had for the last 20 years, that we need a break from the record deportations of the last four years. We need a system which recognizes the essential contributions of Latin American immigrants, in particular, to our economy, and grants them full residence and, ultimately, citizenship, rights without delays.

There were about 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the US in 2010, 2.55 million of them in California, according to a Pew Research Hispanic report sourced by ABC News 10.

Conservative leaders have said they are trying to create a modern immigration system, as well as woo back Latino voters.

California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, expressed support for the immigration overhaul, which was proposed by a group of four Democrats and four Republicans.

"The comprehensive framework outlined today by the bipartisan Senate working group is a major step forward in the effort to reform our broken immigration system," ABC News 10 quoted Feinstein as saying.

The new plan could be a boon to Bay Area businesses—especially tech companies looking to hire scientists and engineer—though some are questioning if foreign graduates with advanced degrees in fields like science and math should be given preference for green cards.

The reforms may help California farming communities, which wrestled with labor shortages in 2012.

“Farmers struggle to hire enough domestic employees, so they rely on foreign employees willing to harvest America’s food," California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. "Many of the people who tend to the food we eat are not properly documented. Reform of immigration laws should secure our borders and allow immigrants who are contributing to our communities to work in farming.”

The immigration reform package must first pass the Senate, then be considered by the House.

President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his immigration plan Tuesday in Las Vegas.

What are your thoughts? Is this a positive step toward fixing the US immigration system? Or is this unfair to the other immigrants who waited their turn for visas and green cards?


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