Beegle: Looking past the wall to find real solutions for immigration reform (column) |

Beegle: Looking past the wall to find real solutions for immigration reform (column)

We are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history. The one thing that both sides can agree on is that they cannot relent or they will lose morale, votes, and funds for their party. Pro wall supporters are worried that the future of their children will be worse than the opportunities they had growing up.  They see changes in their community and wonder if their children are getting enough attention and resources from teachers and the community or if they are being marginalized by individuals who did not enter the country legally and are residing without documentation.

Individuals against the border wall are seeing it as both an ineffective measure and an isolating one. Nearly half of immigrants do not actually illegally cross the ground border and instead arrive legally and overstay visas. Opponents of the wall also look at the effects to families: citizens, documented immigrants and undocumented immigrants. The reality is that the lines are not drawn in the sand and many of the undocumented individuals live in households with documented citizens and contribute to our local economies with labor and tax dollars.

In our divided nation, I would argue that there is not a side that is right and a side that is wrong. We can do more damage by trying to vilify the opposition by saying that the anti-border wall folks do not respect our nation’s laws and are willing do damage to citizens just to gain global popularity. You also might hear the stance that those who want to build the wall are acting immorally and building an expensive structure that takes funding from projects like education that are in desperate need.

While there might be some truth in both, neither tells the whole story of neighbors who are trying to do what they think and hope is best for a nation they see as heading in the wrong direction.

The United States is a nation of doers and everyone, whether secretly or overtly, is rooting for the underdog and pulling for a happy ending. So why are we focused on what we disagree with and not on what we agree on? The majority of Americans are in support of a better work visa system that allows for immigrants to come legally to the county to work and be put on a logical path to citizenship where they can join the American economy.  Many of us are aware of how fractured and dysfunctional the current path to citizenship is. There are horror stories of immigrants paying thousands of dollars to immigration attorneys over the years only to have their case put at the bottom of the stack because a document was filed incorrectly. Even those that are not as familiar with the process know there is something amiss and the vast majority of Americans want comprehensive reform.

So why are our legislatures not talking about their ideas for large-scale reform? Our Immigration system has remained largely unchanged for 21 years. Arguing over a border wall, or DACA for that matter, feels a bit like arguing which actor should play the lead role in a movie that does not have a script yet.

In 1996, Pluto was still a planet and cell phones only made voice calls. A lot in our daily lives, job markets and communities have changed. But our immigration system still relies on the same quotas and processes from 1996.

Various polls and studies have been done on what Americans want to see in immigration reform over the years. What we agree on is that we want a plan where if you want to come to this country legally and you are willing to work, pay taxes, and follow the laws of the constitution, that you should have that opportunity. The system we have is broken and it needs to be updated to account for changes.

We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our neighbors to have legislatures who can look at the big picture and not sling soundbites at each other trying to get more media exposure. We deserve lawmakers who can look at a crisis, like the government shutdown, and see past the immediate hits to their bottom line and focus on pushing positive policies through that will structure a pipeline to citizenship which can help families, employers, and our economy. We deserve all this, but it is up to each of us to call our representatives and then vote for those who listen.

Jessica Beegle lives in Eagle. 


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