Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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The president and a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators unveiled the framework for comprehensive immigration reform this week. Immigration attorney Regina Jefferies discusses the changes.

Ted Simons: The President and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators unveiled a framework for comprehensive immigration reform this week. And here to talk more about the proposals is immigration attorney regina jeffries. Nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Regina Jeffries: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: I want to get an impression from the immigrant community what you are hearing, the response to the proposals, but first, your thoughts on what you heard?

Regina Jeffries: I think that, you know, what we have got in the last couple of weeks is, is, even, two fairly similar proposals. I think that there is a lot of -- there are a lot of good ideas, and there are a lot of things that do need to happen. So, as far as people being provided a path to citizenship or a path to legal residency, especially dealing with the dreamer issue, with kids that have grown up their lives here have gone to school and have contribute. And those kinds of things, it's as we exciting to, to see these things, and in those proposals, and I think that, that, you know, it's very hopeful, as well, we're very hopeful that something will happen, and in a bipartisan way.

Ted Simons: So what are you hearing from the immigrant community?

Regina Jeffries: Well, people, people are hopeful, I mean, they are excited for the most part but they are also cautious because I think that, that what we have seen over the past ten years with the immigration debate is, is a lot of discord and a lot of, a lot of back and forth and, and essentially, petty arguing, and not a focus on the policy. I mean, the immigration system in this country is broken. And it needs to be fix. And we need to have a reason, a sensible approach to fix it, and not add on just, you know, things and hoops that are just going to make the process more of a quagmire than it already is.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, how many, and will, will folks emerge from the shadows hearing something like this, and even if, if some of these ideas are implemented, is that, is that enough because that's a community with so many folks who have been there for so long. Not participating in a lot of things that these requirements mandate.

Regina Jeffries: And I think that, that one of the things that, that you see, for example, take the example of paying back taxes, well, a large number of immigrants who are here, even if they are here unlawfully, pay taxes. And a large number of them, and I mean, not only income taxes but property taxes, and sales taxes and all the taxes that we have. So, the idea that, that, that people are going to emerge, I think people will emerge, if they are provided an opportunity to, to apply and legalize their status, and afford an opportunity to, to work and support their family, they, absolutely, will step forward and do that. The problem now is that there is no way for many people to do that. And there is no line for people to get into. So, if people are afforded an opportunity to get in a line, I think that they will step forward, absolutely.

Ted Simons: Future citizenship is a concern for those who have always a problem with, with illegal immigration in any concept of being a citizen in the future. Is that a big draw, do you think, for the community or is that just one of many things in these proposals to be considered?

Regina Jeffries: I think that it's absolutely a big draw for the community. Especially when you look at kids who were brought here as, you know, an infant and have lived their lives here, they consider themselves citizens of the United States anyway. This is something that is incredibly important, and actually, that we have seen over the last five years, that the power of the Latino voters coming out, and people that, that, that have become citizens, so that they can take part and they can take part in the civic life, in the United States and, and I think it's a very important thing.

Ted Simons: The background checks for temporary legal status, is that, is that viable? Is that realistic?

Regina Jeffries: Absolutely. The immigration service, they run background checks for, for any, any kind of application, for, for residency, for citizenship, and for, for, for, for work permits and in certain cases, and for the deferred action process, they run extensive checks.

Ted Simons: And the talk of toughening the border, is that a deterrent? Is that something that, that the immigrant community, the people you work with, they hear that and they go, this could be a problem? This could be something that, that may keep us from doing x, y, and z?

Regina Jeffries: I think that that is, in my view, that is an issue with, with the proposals that have been put forth. This idea of, of border security, I mean, the border has -- the border security has never been better enforced than it has been under the Obama administration and that's a fact. You can look at the number of, of deportations. They have skyrocketed, and I'm not saying, you know, it's a good or bad thing but the fact of the matter is that there is more border enforcement now than there ever has been. And so, I think that tieing this citizenship idea to, to securing the border when there is no, no defined example of what that would mean, it's a red herring. You are going to have a lot of people stuck in limbo for no reason because Congress, again, is abdicating its responsibility and to put a process into place.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the process might include a commission that deals with border Governors and attorneys general and sheriffs and these sorts of things, which again, it could be problematic to those who look at these folks and say, I don't want any part of that. And that's not good for the system.

Regina Jeffries: No, and I can understand the, the interest in having input from people that are dealing with, with the issues like this. But, the issue is, that it needs to be something that's practical, that does not add to, to the, the unwieldyness of the system. It has to be something that's practical and can be implemented, and not something that's a ploy or somebody sticking it in there because they think it will get votes. It has to work, and I think that's what we're waiting to see.

Ted Simons: And a couple other ideas here, new penalties for fraud and I.D. theft. New penalties, there already are some but it's rampant, is that a deterrent? Would that be much of one, any new penalties?

Regina Jeffries: Any new penalties would be duplicative, it's -- there are penalties for that. It's already penalized, it's already -- it renders someone inadmissible so unable to get a green card unless they can jump through hoops and, and so, I'm not sure it's really necessary, and this is, actually, a perfect example. What I'm saying it, needs to be something that works, not something that, that adds to, to the unwieldyness of the system. Why would you add something like that when there is already something preventing fraud or punishing fraud that's in the system? It does not make any sense.

Ted Simons: I guess, yeah, most of the questions I'm asking regarding a response from the immigrant community is, are they buying it? And you said that there's there was hope, so, it sounds like they are buying most of it. And but, is it the kind of thing that, that instead of us constantly saying the immigration system is broken, in a year, or two, or however long it takes to get some of this, if they ever do get implemented, we can say, take a little breath and say, it's time to move forward.

Regina Jeffries: Right. And I think that, that the immigrant community from what I have heard, I think that, that people are hopeful but I think that people are, are skeptical, as well. And for good reason. And I think that, you know, if we are going to have to see what people come up with, and if Congress can come up with a solution that's going to allow us that breathing room. And I think that the way to go that is to, is to put into place a system that is, is functional, and simpler than the current system, and more streamlined, and that will help business, and that will help immigrants, and that will help, basically, everyone. So, we'll see if that will happen but I'm hopeful it will.

Ted Simons: And it remains to be seen how your job will change because the requirements mean, mean a new learning curve.

Regina Jeffries: If it puts me out of a job, that's totally fine. But, thank you.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Regina Jefferies:Immigration Attorney;

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