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.