A project of the Center for Community Change

Walk in her shoes towards citizenship

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I’ve attached an article below that was published in the Boston Herald a few weeks ago…. it got me rethinking the way the connection between immigration and citizenship….

Though we may not always acknowledge it, citizenship is at the heart of most debates on immigration. When we discuss how immigrants should be treated by police, or how long the wait for a visa should be, or if day laborers should be allowed in a community- the bottomline is always the same: any decision we make about immigrants is a decision we make about the values of American citizenship and how american citizens should be treated.

Though not all immigrants to this country become or desire to become citizens, the path to citizenship is a facet of all migration stories- realized or not. All too often it is easy for US citizens to judge migrants harshly and often cruelly without recognizing the deep connection between the values and sacredness of citizenship and the path of immigration. Our citizenship experience reaches its pinnacle when an individual decides to take the oath to become a citizen. Yet, citizenship doesn’t begin the day one takes the oath. It begins the day one leaves one’s house for the US- it is embodied in the crossing of the border, it continues in the day laborer center, the factory, university and community that immigrants thrive in.

We can’t allow ourselves to separate the citizen from their pathway citizenship- that would be the greatest disrespect that we could do to our american citizenship. If we really value our country- then we must begin to demand that all citizens, present and future, be treated with the respect and given the rights they deserve.

Walk in her shoes toward citizenship
By Boston Herald editorial staff
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let’s for a moment tackle President Bush’s latest immigration reform proposal not in the abstract – because this isn’t about 12 million nameless, faceless illegal immigrants . It’s about people who live among us.

Let’s say the person who would have to jump through the still-to-be-constructed hoops to citizenship is one of the mothers recently rounded up at the Bianco factory in New Bedford. Say it’s Maria Briselda Amaya, who until her detention a month ago was helping support her family (including a 2- and 4-year-old, both American citizens) on about $7.50 an hour (and woe to her if she lingered too long in the bathroom).

But in order to appease those of his party who don’t want any new law that would provide a path to citizenship (Will Bush never learn that some people cannot be appeased?), Bush’s latest proposal would create a road so rocky, so onerous that only the already successful need apply.

Under that “draft,” undocumented immigrants could apply for three-year work visas, costing $3,500 for each renewal. That means Mrs. Briselda Amaya would have to sit at her sewing machine for about 466 hours (or more than 58 eight-hour days) just to purchase her visa. But it gets better. To become a legal permanent resident with a green card, she would have to return to her native Honduras (which she and her sister fled in the wake of violent threats), apply at the U.S. Embassy to re-enter legally and pay a $10,000 fine – the equivalent of working 166 days at minimum wage (and that doesn’t account for deductions).

So how does that happen?

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has made immigration reform one of his top priorities, was inordinately kind in a statement issued Monday saying, “President Bush did the right thing today by speaking out.”

“There is a lot of common ground, especially in the need to strengthen our borders and enforce our laws, though important differences remain to be resolved,” Kennedy added.

Fences are fine. Border security is essential. But the alternative to creating a real and affordable path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants is the kind of pain and hardship we saw in New Bedford multiplied by hundreds of thousands. And do we really want our government to be tearing families apart in our name?

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