LETTER TO THE EDITOR: RE: From AB 540 to Legal Resident

This Friday, a lunchtime forum here on campus will review the critical issues of immigration and immigration reform. As a community of learners and educators, our discourse around these issues is appropriate to the intellectual life of our campus.

Beginning at noon in University Hall Room 141, please join the roundtable discussion “From AB 540 to Legal Resident: Preparing for the New Challenges and Opportunities.” Bring your lunch, your ideas, your voice for this meaningful and timely conversation.

For me, these issues have always been important. I was born in New York, the sixth child of parents who emigrated with their first five children from Puerto Rico. I came from humble beginnings, and as a first-generation college student, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of higher education. In part, this is why I feel so strongly both about the subject of immigration and the comprehensive immigration reform legislation now working its way through Congress.

I also embrace the richness of diversity in this country and in our academic institutions, understanding that our strength as a nation and the value of our educational programs are bolstered by bringing together many voices, perspectives and experiences.

At present, there is an enormous backlog of individuals seeking permanent resident status. It can take years, even decades, for visa applications to be processed. This backlog can force families to endure long periods of separation and hardship.

Compounding the complexity of our current immigration picture is the presence of approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Given the rhetorical emphasis being given by the leaders of both parties that all undocumented applicants must go to the “back of the line,” behind those who’ve already followed legal channels to immigrate to this country, the wait times will get longer and hardship will only increase.

What’s even more confusing is that there is not one line but many, with wait times that vary wildly depending on the kind of green card a prospective immigrant is applying for, the number of visas available, and the immigrant’s country of origin.

For my contribution to the discussion of immigration, I feel that as a nation, we simply must find a clear path to citizenship. By giving individuals pathways to citizenship, we are bringing a wealth of talent—individuals who will be and contributing to society, earning a living and becoming tax-paying citizens.

We must do so for the hundreds of thousands of children who had no part in the events that brought them here, whose undocumented status in this country is simply an accident of where they were born and who constitute a vital asset that our broken immigration policy currently endangers.

A humane and reasonable path to citizenship will not contain arbitrary deadlines and must provide for continuous enrollment for those eligible. Since the 1986 immigration laws went into effect, the number of crimes that make one ineligible for immigration status has grown tremendously. Even long-term legal residents with families in the United States now face deportation for minor and nonviolent charges.

We cannot afford to turn our backs on a generation of productive young people who are Americans in every sense of the word but their citizenship status. Again, I encourage you to attend Friday’s event. These issues are too important to be left unexplored by our community.

-Mildred García, President of Cal State Fullerton

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