Last week, a New America Media report disclosed 100 House members have asked President Obama to jump start the immigration reform debate.
When the issue returns, I hope Congress remembers the kids.
Immigrant children are innocent victims of our inability to shape a compromise on immigration.
Worse, their plight has been minimized by anti-immigrant forces.
They never met Henry.
The Nightmare of Graduation Day
Henry and his parents visited my San Bernardino immigration attorney office about two months before his high school graduation. They sought direction about his future.
On paper, Henry was the All American kid. In person, he was polite, well-mannered, and soft-spoken.
Henry was an ‘A’ student. He had won many scholastic and good behavior awards. He took first place in a district-wide science project competition. Henry was also ASB vice-president and an ROTC member. He was the ace pitcher on his school’s baseball team.
Henry’s immediate goals were simple. “I’d like to join the army,” he told me, “so I can help protect my country which has given me so much.”
As complete as Henry’s resume looked, it lacked one major item – legal documents to live in the United States.
He was brought here at the age of 5 when his parents entered the country without permission. Working at minimum wage, his parents supported Henry in a stable home. They raised Henry to believe good behavior and hard work would open doors of opportunity.
Instead, with graduation nearing, Henry had nowhere to turn.
His dream of joining the U.S. army was not possible. He could not legally work or go to college.
At the end of our meeting, the hopelessness of Henry and his parents was apparent. As they left my office, light tears rolled down Henry’s cheeks.
Henry deserves better.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Whenever immigration reform discussions begin, Congress is expected to argue over the merits of the DREAM Act. This proposal would allow young Henry and other immigrants students the possibility of lawful resident status.
Opponents will assert the legislation is a form of blanket amnesty. They’re wrong.
As an immigration lawyer who helps immigrants earn permanent residence and U.S. citizenship, I know there are no shortcuts provided by the DREAM Act.
Under the most current version, lawful permanent resident status is only granted if immigrant children meet certain requirements over an 11 year period.
In addition, during a six-year period of “conditional resident status,” they must (a) demonstrate a record of good moral character and (b) successfully complete at least two years of service in the armed forces or attendance at a college.
For innocent and deserving immigrant children like Henry, I hope Congress sees fit this round to provide them with light at the end of the tunnel.