Vikki Wolff: Undocumented workers deserve faster resolution

Recent ideas for reforming our national immigration policy have proposed asking 11 million undocumented residents to "go to the end of the line" of all the citizenship applications the U.S. receives.

For many of the undocumented people who have already been waiting in this line for many years, I think that is unfair.

Our immigration policy has been broken for decades. The last time we tried to "catch up" with the undocumented workers who were picking our fruit, building our houses, cleaning our buildings and invisibly making our lives more affordable and more pleasant was in 1986, when we had an amnesty program for people who had been living and working in the U.S. for four years or more and met specified stringent qualifications.

Three million people were brought out of the shadows.

Since then, because of our country-by-country quota system and our complex priority system, a person from Mexico who applied 10 years ago for citizenship with the sponsorship of a U.S. naturalized relative is still waiting in line. During that time, this person will have filed a citizenship application, paid the application fee and worked and paid Social Security taxes and state and federal income taxes.


Under the current immigration system, this person's wait for a green card is an additional seven years or longer, depending on how many other people from Mexico with different immigration priorities apply.

In the meanwhile, the IRS is willing to keep accepting this person's tax payments. Even an undocumented worker can receive a special tax ID number, which is not a Social Security number. This number is used only to pay taxes.

Except for Native Americans, all of us are the children of immigrants. All of us benefit from the intelligence, muscle and initiative brought to our country by immigrants who are usually are the best, the brightest and the most courageous from their home countries.

There is no evidence that the undocumented come here to live on welfare. They come here to work. We have ideas and products we would never have had without them. Because of their labor, we citizens have enjoyed lower food prices, hotel bills, and construction costs for many years.

It is true that the undocumented are here illegally, but we created the economic opportunity for them to work here, enjoyed the fruits of their labors, and now we have become dependent on them. At the same time, they have put down roots.

We need to reform our national immigration system in a way that benefits our country but does not step on the hopes, dreams and future of our prospective citizens. Telling a person who has already waited in line 10-15 years — while working, paying taxes and committing no felonies — to wait another 10 years does not seem fair. It does not seem the best way to unite our efforts and dreams to make this the best possible country for all of us.

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