In April 2009, the VCReporter published a story about a 21-year-old undocumented worker living in Santa Paula who came to this country with her parents when she was 5. Rosalyn (not her real name) immigrated in 1992 with her pregnant mother, father and younger sister from Michoacán, Mexico, where those who made $5 per week were considered wealthy. In 2005, Rosalyn graduated from an acclaimed public high school in Ventura and went off to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks on a parent-plus student loan, for which her father made payments right away. Three years later, she graduated from CLU with her bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She had great ambitions after graduation, but her hopes had all been diminished because of a broken immigration system that had put off her chances of achieving residency status to the year 2016. And that was still a stretch. At the time the article was published, she was employed on the assembly line of a makeup factory in Oxnard.
Fast-forward three years. On June 15, President Barack Obama made a major change to the country’s deportation policy that would help people like Rosalyn work in this country legally. The latest immigration reform gives certain undocumented immigrants — those who can prove they were brought into the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served honorably in the military — the opportunity to apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed. Though Rosalyn has since changed her phone number, making following up nearly impossible, this new law may change not only her life, but those of 800,000 immigrants in similar situations.
There are dissenters, though, as to be expected, and they fall on both sides of the spectrum. Conservatives claim it will take away jobs from Americans while illegal immigrants and their advocates have their doubts that it will come to fruition as explained. There are also those who feel this policy change won’t make much of a difference and is simply a political move by Obama to secure the Latino vote. Everyone who disagrees with Obama’s decision has a valid point to a degree but there is a bigger, broader picture they seem to be missing.
Outspoken conservatives against illegal immigration will never see the issue as anything other than black and white. For those who are living illegally in this country, they need to get out — and many of them have. In October 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that in the last year more illegal immigrants had been deported than ever before — close to 400,000 — though more than half were convicted criminals, and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators. The reason for the increase in deportations — more money in the federal budget reserved for ICE. But the bright side that conservatives fail to recognize is any possibility that those who will now be able to get their work permits may actually bolster the economy by opening up their own businesses and providing more jobs in an economy that is stagnating. For illegal immigrants and their advocates who have their doubts, only time will tell. For those who feel the change in immigration policy isn’t enough, at the very least, it is something.
In the end, it all boils down to Rosalyn, a girl who was brought here illegally by her parents by no choice of her own. She has no country to call her own and still we blame her for it. In our society, where we have strict standards on how children should be treated, on how people should be punished for hurting children, on opportunities we give to children to grow and prosper, it comes as a major shock that children who have been brought here illegally have been considered in any way second class in comparison to the American born. In fact, it is the only instance where the child is punished for the crime of the parent(s). We stand by President Obama and his effort to restore dignity and respect to children without a country to call their own.