Last week, President Obama delivered a speech in Texas addressing immigration reform, or the lack of it. For New Jersey immigration lawyers and immigration groups who were hoping for the announcement of some concrete measures toward reform, the speech was a disappointment.
The President gave no indication that there would be any progress on the DREAM Act. With a Republican Congress, it doesn't look like the DREAM Act will be passed anytime soon. The Act would provide for a legal path to permanent residency for certain categories of undocumented immigrants, like college students. There are currently an estimated 1 million high school and college students in the United States who were brought into this country by their undocumented parents. These students continue to suffer while their immigration status hangs in limbo.
As New Jersey immigration attorneys, we have long called on the federal administration to establish a legal path for citizenship for such college and high school students. However, the President’s Texas speech did not contain any indication that he would be addressing this issue seriously soon.
According to studies, more than 50% of persons who are deported or detained have been convicted of low level offenses. There are far too many persons who end up deported, in detention or separated from their families because of a dysfunctional system. In 2009, a North Carolina native who was mentally ill was deported to Mexico where he has no family. Checks by immigration officials at the time of deportation clearly showed that he was a U.S. citizen at the time. In 2007, a man who had been in a resident of the U.S. for more than 30 years was arrested while he was returning back to the country from a holiday. The basis of the arrest was a 19-year-old conviction for an attempted robbery. The man was ultimately deported to Italy.
There is no denying anymore that there is an urgent need for practical and comprehensive immigration reform in the country. The deportation process also needs a drastic overhaul.