Election May Change Immigrant Playing Field

Strid­ing into the spot­light at the Repub­li­can National Con­ven­tion, Ann Rom­ney was quick to remind vot­ers where she had come from before she became the wife of a would-be pres­i­dent. Rom­ney recalled grow­ing up in Michi­gan, the daugh­ter of a Welsh immi­grant father whose rags to riches story res­onates with the core of this country.

Ann Rom­ney was not the only Repub­li­can to expound on the con­tri­bu­tions of immi­grants to these United States. In his keynote speech, New Jer­sey gov­er­nor Chris Christie spoke about the influ­ence of his Irish father and espe­cially his Sicil­ian mother. For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleeza Rice talked about the impor­tance of the country’s immi­grant roots and vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Paul Ryan told the press before his speech that he hoped to devote at least some of it to the con­tri­bu­tions of his Irish ancestors.

All of this begs the ques­tion: Just what would the coun­try be like for immi­grants – those with legal doc­u­ments and oth­er­wise – if the Repub­li­cans ride to vic­tory in Novem­ber? A glimpse at the GOP plat­form on immi­gra­tion is telling.

In the Repub­li­can vision of Amer­ica, every U.S. employer would have to use a fed­er­ally man­dated sys­tem to ver­ify that each employee is a legal res­i­dent of the United States. States which offer tuition dis­counts to youth who grew up here with­out proper immi­gra­tion doc­u­ments would lose fed­eral fund­ing. And immi­gra­tion enforce­ment, the province of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment since the birth of this coun­try, would be fair game for the states.

It is a safe bet as well that immi­gra­tion poli­cies which have emerged under the Obama admin­is­tra­tion may become a thing of the past. They include a direc­tive by which immi­gra­tion enforce­ment resources are ded­i­cated toward deport­ing crim­i­nals instead of oth­er­wise law abid­ing peo­ple who have lived and worked here for years with­out proper papers. Although Rom­ney has yet to defin­i­tively state his posi­tion on it, a two-year reprieve for cer­tain youth who were brought here ille­gally as chil­dren may also vanish.

Both par­ties have reit­er­ated the need to rein­force the country’s bor­ders against those who risk detec­tion and even their lives for the promise of a bet­ter life here. Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans also agree that expan­sion of visas for those with edu­ca­tion and exper­tise in cer­tain fields – includ­ing sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy – should be con­sid­ered. Repub­li­cans would expand a guest worker pro­gram that allows U.S farm­ers to till their crops with for­eign work­ers who have tem­po­rary autho­riza­tion to be here.

So, what does this mean for you? If you are autho­rized to be here, pos­si­bly not much. If you have already over­stayed your wel­come, how­ever, or slipped across the bor­der and are now mar­ried to a U.S. cit­i­zen, who is in charge after Novem­ber will have major con­se­quences for your life as you know it.

Unlike Ann Romney’s father, who started a busi­ness and became mayor of a Michi­gan town, many flock­ing to these shores today are doing so with­out ben­e­fit of a visa. Part of that may be sys­temic. My par­ents emi­grated here in the 1950s at a time when visas were still plen­ti­ful for Irish immigrants.

Irish cit­i­zens and oth­ers who want to live in this coun­try today, how­ever, know that the visas of yes­ter­day sim­ply are not avail­able today.

For those still on the fence over whether they may qual­ify for legal immi­grant sta­tus, now may be the time to con­sult with an immi­gra­tion attor­ney. After Novem­ber, the rules of the game may change again.

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