A federal legislative process that protects many different interests, and a legislative body controlled by conservative forces is not going to make things easy for immigration reform. Even if and when the federal legislation is passed, it's going to be a long haul here in California and elsewhere for an immigrant to achieve citizenship. Arriving at acquired citizenship status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants will be long, expensive and filled with difficulties.
It will take more than a decade, at a cost of thousands and with many burdensome regulations along the way. Immigration supporters fear that millions won't be able to meet the rigid requirements. The National Immigration Law Center expressed 'grave concerns' about the ability of low-income immigrants to pay the fees, fines and taxes required for citizenship.
The law will require a $500 penalty, payment of back taxes and an undecided filing fee. Immigrants convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors will be disqualified. For those who came here as children, have lived here since they were 16 and are enrolled in school, a green card will be granted after five years. For most others, there's a wait of at least 10 years to get a green card and several more for citizenship.
After Homeland Security declares the borders to be 'secure', undocumented immigrants who arrived prior to Dec. 2011 will be eligible to apply for 'Registered Provisional Status'. There will be a process of fingerprinting, biometric analysis and a thorough medical exam. Provisional immigrants must wait five more years after getting a green card to receive any kind of federal benefits.
After the first six years, candidates must provide another $500 and prove steady employment. They can apply for a green card after 10 years, and get citizenship after several more years. Whether in California or elsewhere, the complicated and burdensome process will be best traveled with the experienced assistance of legal counsel. Many believe that Congress should be making it easy to normalize life and to quickly incorporate the economic participation of millions of potential citizens into the system. But as we see so often in a fragmented democratic structure, the final product is instead shaping up to be a hodge-podge of provisions trying to satisfy a multitude of competing concerns.
Source: dailynews.com, "Immigration Reform: Path to citizenship won't be easy," Gina Martinez, May 28, 2013