U.S. immigration reform:
at last, a hint of compassion

U.S. immigration reform? What immigration reforms?

Washington can’t reform anything these days – not with a stalemated Congress and pre-election vitriol drowning out both common sense discussion and common decency.

Comes now the Obama administration with a simple, common sense proposal for an immigration reform that injects a hint of compassion into this rancorous political brouhaha.

It’s not a game changer, mind you. Not a panacea. Not even an about-face. It’s more like a single rose popping out on an overcast mid-winter day: one rose doesn’t change the landscape or mask the stench, but it does offer a heart-warming sniff that warms the soul.

In a nutshell, the administration proposes a baby-step toward immigration reform – a change that aims to ease the hardship current immigration laws wreak on American citizens when their illegal immigrant loved ones try to fess up and get the proper credentials to remain here legally.

So who does this affect? An example:

Let’s say you’re a U.S. citizen married to an undocumented immigrant. You live in Vegas . . . or LA . . . or even Soda Springs. Or maybe you’re a recent college graduate whose parents brought you to the U.S. (illegally) when you were two years old. You’ve been here for years. You have established roots. You have a job, maybe a home. You pay taxes. If you were a kid when you came, you’re now culturally an American. You’re here illegally, but you want to “do the right thing” and get your papers.

To stay here legally, current law requires you to return “home” (to your “native land”) and apply for a proper visa. But guess what? The law also says that if you’ve been in the U.S. illegally for more than six months and leave the country, you are barred from returning for at least 3 years . . . and up to as many as 10 years.

Harsh, no?

Ah, there is an out, but . . . it’s another Catch 22

The law does offer a way to avoid the 3 to 10-year ban: you can apply for an “I-601 waiver.” It will be granted IF you can show that separation from your family in the U.S. would cause you and your family undue hardships.

But guess what? You have to go back to the old country to apply for the waiver. Ah ha: Catch 22 again: chances are you’re going to be stuck there for months . . . or worse, years, when your application disappears into the bureaucratic quick sand.

Are you going to risk it? I don’t think I would! And if you don’t risk it, you’re left living your life in the shadows, constantly looking over your shoulder, hoping against hope you don’t get caught with a traffic violation or a broken tail light that gets you tossed into the clink . . . then unceremoniously deported . . . and your spouse and/or kids left to fend for themselves.

The proposed change is this:

You would be allowed to get a provisional waiver here in the U.S. that allows you return to your “native land,” get a proper visa, then come back – a process that should take only a few days or weeks.

This rule change won’t solve the “immigrant problem” – far from it. But it might make life a whole lot easier for some good folks who have made a life here and want to become American citizens . . . without the risk of tearing your family apart.

The proposed change offers a bit of compassion and common sense for some undocumented immigrants. Best of all, no Congressional approval needed. No ugly partisan debate required.

After the current period of public comment, immigration officials expect the rule modification to go into effect by end of the year. Let’s hope it’s sooner than that.