Thursday, November 21, 2013

Many immigrants are more concerned with being able to work and travel freely than with citizenship

One of the main points of the Senate-passed immigration bill is the idea of a pathway for 11.7 million undocumented workers to gain legal status, and perhaps citizenship, but the bill has stalled in the House. Even the idea of passing legislation to help farm workers and their employers has failed to gain traction.

While Congress deliberates, many undocumented workers say they aren't as concerned with gaining citizenship as they are with being able to work, provide for their families and travel to and from their native lands without fear of losing their jobs or being deported, Julia Preston reports for The New York Times. (NYT photo by John Van Beekum: Alejandra Saucedo, a legal resident, distributes bumper stickers on immigration reform)

Oscar A. Chacon, executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, told Preston, “For many undocumented people, citizenship is not a priority. What they really care about is a solution that allows them to overcome their greatest vulnerabilities.”

Glendy Martínez, an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua working at a hair salon in Houston, has one child who was born in Texas and three who were born in her native land. She told Preston, “So many people back there depend on those of us who are here. It would be such a help if we could work in peace and go back sometimes to see our children.” While Martínez would like to become an American, what she said she most wants is to be able to work and drive legally and be able to travel from the U.S. to Nicaragua without worry.

Others who have been living and working illegally in the U.S. for years say anything less than full citizenship would be a slap in the face. Yaquelín López, an immigrant from Bolivia who has been in the U.S. for a decade, told Preston, “Citizenship is fundamental. Otherwise we will be 11 million people left in limbo.” Marcela Espinal, from Honduras, agreed, telling Preston, “We have been working hard for our families and paying taxes all these years, and we never lived off the government. Why shouldn’t we be able to vote someday?” (Read more)

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