If We Want Immigrants to Come Here ‘the Right Way' We Have to Provide a Path

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the harsh reality of being an undocumented immigrant in Texas. I received a lot of feedback from people who are actually OK with immigrants being in the U.S., but they would like them to immigrate "the right way." What they might not know is just how impossible our current immigration regime has made it to immigrate "the right way."Currently, 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants are living in the country. According to Pew Research, 7.8 million of those unauthorized immigrants are part of the U.S. workforce. The overwhelming majority of the 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. workforce would be able to apply for only H2-A and H2-B visas.The administration has capped the number of H2-B visas this year at 96,000. H2-A visas have no cap, but they are limited to people who are working in agriculture. So in order for 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants to legally work in the United States, roughly 7.7 million of them would need to work in agriculture, which is an impossible requirement. The current system has circumstantially forced hardworking immigrants who have lived here for years to remain in the shadows and has hindered their ability to contribute to the U.S. via the tax system. But we can solve all of these issues with the creation of an economic contributor visa (EC visa).An EC visa would be available only for unauthorized immigrants who can establish that they have been living in the United States for two years or more and that they have committed no criminal offenses. An EC visa would provide applicants with a work number that they can put on tax and employment forms in lieu of a Social Security number.If each of the 7.8 million unauthorized workers makes $25,000 a year and pays a 12% tax rate on that income, the U.S. government could bring in federal tax revenue each year of $23.4 billion.Once an EC visa holder pays taxes for four years without being convicted of a deportable offense, he or she could receive lawful permanent resident status (a green card) guaranteed.From there, EC visa holders can choose whether they would like to apply to be a naturalized citizen after fulfilling all the necessary steps to do so. Their dependents (spouse and children under 21) would also be guaranteed green cards, pending their own criminal background checks, and will not be deportable as long as the primary EC visa is valid.So as politicians take years to argue over the border issues, millions of immigrants are forced to remain in the shadows and their ability to contribute to the country is severely handicapped. Further, they must live every day with a constant fear of possible separation from their families and the life in the U.S. that they have worked incredibly hard to build.The EC visa would give us the opportunity to finally bring millions out of the shadows and finally present them with an accessible "right way" to immigrate.Samuel Garcia is a Harvard Law School student and a native of the Rio Grande Valley. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.  Continue reading...

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