Immigration Process

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HORIZONTE talks to Marie Sebrechts from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to explain how immigrants can live in the U.S. legally.

Jose Cardenas:
good evening I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." should police officers be held responsible for enforcing immigration laws? Local police chiefs from valley cities say no, but some officers say they should. Plus we'll explore the process needed to come here legally. And an Arizona school that encourages its students to speak Spanish. All those stories coming up on "Horizonte."

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funding for "Horizonte" is provided by S.R.P. S.R.P.'s business is water and power, but our dedication to the community doesn't stop there. S.R.P., delivering more than power.

Jose Cardneas:
in the past two months, there have been two police officers shot, and the suspects are undocumented immigrants. There has started a debate about immigration and crime and at issue the resources, authority, and responsibility to report people to i.c.e., immigration and custom enforcement. Joining me to talk about this is Ralph Tranter, a former Tempe police chief and currently the executive director for the Arizona association of chiefs of police. Chief, thank you for joining us on "horizonte." just a little bit more about your background. We mentioned you're the former chief of police in Tempe. How long did you serve there and what's your other history in law enforcement?

Ralph Tranter:
I was a Tempe police officer for over 30 years, and i retired at the end of last year and volunteered to serve as the executive director for the Arizona association of chiefs of police during this year. I served my entire career with the city of Tempe. I started as a police officer back in 1976 and worked my way through the ranks up to and including the position of police chief.

Jose Cardenas:
and most of the police chiefs, i would assume, have similar backgrounds in the sense that they were line officers before they assumed their management positions.

Ralph Tranter:
that's true.

Jose Cardenas:
so what accounts then for what seems to be this split between the rank and file and their leadership? Have the chiefs forgotten what it's like to be out on the streets in.

Ralph Tranter:
absolutely not. In fact the chiefs are very concerned about the responsibilities that we place upon our police officers. The job of serving as a police officer has become more involved and more complex over the last five, 10, 20 years. It's not the same as when we started. But we understand that. And the additional responsibility of doing immigration enforcement is another demand upon our officers' time that will compete with other priorities out in the field. Our citizens demand the highest level of service, and police chiefs are always constantly shifting resources to address whatever priorities exist out in the community. Serious crime patterns, serious crime trends, crises are coming up all the time. Every year, additional unfunded mandates come out of the state legislature and, for the most part, they are all good policies, but we are expected to have our police officers adhere to those policies and enforce new laws and carry out new protocols. Immigration enforcement is an additional responsibility, and it is a very complex and involved responsibility. To do immigration enforcement, it takes six, seven, eight weeks of training.

Jose Cardenas:
you're talking about the process of deputizing them, getting them certified by i.c.e.

Ralph Tranter:
that's correct.

Jose Cardenas:
tell us what this official policy position is of the chiefs of police.

Ralph Tranter:
well, the chiefs of police over two and a half years ago recognized these issues, and we submitted a resolution expressing our concern and our position on immigration enforcement. Our first point was that the federal government is responsible for securing the border, and we believe that they can do a more efficient job at securing the border. We support immigration reform by the federal government, including a secure border. Our second position was that immigration -- local immigration enforcement, it's a local decision that should be made by local policymakers in conjunction with police chiefs, their legal advisors, advocacy groups, and citizens. And it should be a local decision rather than across the entire state of Arizona where we mandate that all cities do immigration enforcement.

Jose Cardenas:
but the kind of local decision you're talking about would involve not simply the police agencies themselves but also other policymakers. Are you suggesting, for example then, that sheriff joe arpaio should have gotten a mandate from the board of supervisors before embarking on the policies he's --

Ralph Tranter:
no, I'm not suggesting that at the county level. I represent the police chiefs, the municipal police chiefs, and I'm recommending -- we're recommending that, at the city level, that each city is different. Every city is impacted differently by immigration, and every city has different levels of resources. And the counties should do the same. Sheriff Joe is an elected official, and we respect his authority as the sheriff, an elected official, to implement whatever policies he thinks is appropriate.

Jose Cardenas:
the chiefs, though, believe this is not a good use of their resources at this point in time.

Ralph Tranter: well, the chiefs' position is that we have a tremendous amount of competing priorities, and this is an additional responsibility. We're not quite sure it's the most efficient way of doing business. You know, some chiefs may belief we should do secondary enforcement. That is, if you stop somebody for some type of other violation and they are potential immigration violators, then they should be investigated. But that's a decision that should be made by each and every police chief in conjunction with the city elected officials that work for us, the police officers, and the communities that they serve.

Jose Cardenas:
and isn't that basically what the current leadership of the phoenix law enforcement association is asking for? They're quoted as saying that what they want to do is have the ability to have i.c.e. Agents assist them in traffic stops and family disturbances and interpret. What's wrong with that?

Ralph Tranter:
well, that's my understanding. The challenge with that is -- is the availability of i.c.e. Officers to support that approach to doing business. If each and every agency in the state adopted that policy -- you know -- the next question would have to be are i.c.e. Agents going to be available to secure the border as well as respond to the calls of service across Maricopa county and the entire state of Arizona? That's a decision that needs to be made by the city of phoenix, but phoenix police chief Jack Harris. I'm sure they are studying that proposal by the union, and they'll render a good, objective decision.

Jose Cardenas:
now, all of this has come to the forefront because of the shootings of phoenix police officers. Two of them were killed in recent months. How would removing these handcuffs, which is what the police officers' association says these are -- how would removing these handcuffs have impacted those types of situations in.

Ralph Tranter:
well, it's my understanding in both those situations the suspects had been deported previously for immigration violations and came back across the state or across the border. That's one of our concerns is that we're supporting immigration reform at the federal level. We believe that the border should be secured along with any discussions concerning enforcement at the state and local level. Because if we do -- did we divert resources to do active or secondary immigration enforcement, we will lose any return on investment if those individuals who are deported return back across the border. And it's my understanding that is what has happened in a couple of those cases.

Jose Cardenas:
now, you have citizens who say that that's just a cop-out, saying that it's a federal issue, the cop-out because the federal government isn't doing anything about it and therefore local entities, police agencies need to assume responsibility. What's your response to that?

Ralph Tranter:
well, our response is that -- you know -- we have an unending myriad of demands and priorities upon our officers' time. Citizens call for police service. And if our officers are mired down in basic i will congratulations enforcement the, it's going to reduce our availability and our response to those calls for service. As a police chief, i can remember citizens calling up and complaining about calling the police department, calling 9-1-1, and getting put on hold. Or calling the police department. We take their information. Then an officer would call them back at a later time, perhaps an extended period of time, and take the report over the telephone. Or perhaps it might even take an hour or longer, in some cases maybe a number of hours for officers to respond to take a basic burglary report. These are the challenges that we face. And police chiefs are constantly balancing, shifting resources to try to address whatever crisis or crime trend or pattern that comes up. A couple years ago, the valley experienced the baseline rapist cases and the serial shooters. Both of those cases took tremendous resources. Police resources are very finite, and policing is very expensive. And police chiefs are always in the business of trying to streamline processes without undermining or jeopardizing the service that we provide to citizens. I can remember a citizen calling up. He declared that he had been a 30-year resident of our community, had never reported a crime, woke up in the morning, his car was stolen. He contacted the police department, and we took his stolen vehicle report over the telephone. And the reason we do that is because, at the time, it was the most efficient way to do it. We've changed that policy. But here was a citizen that was concerned with us trying to provide the most efficient level of service provided, and that's a concern that we have, that our officers will be mired in immigration enforcement along with the issue of trust and credibility in our communities. Doing immigration enforcement or securing the border along the border is very different. It's a different dynamic than doing immigration enforcement in our cities, in our neighborhoods.

Jose Cardenas:
chief, we're only got a few seconds left. Where do we go from here? How does management and the line officers resolve this? We've got about 15 seconds.

Ralph Tranter:
we should work closely with officers and our elected officials. Everyone should sit down and have these discussions, and we should hold forums and discuss the implications, the demands upon our time, and talk about the balance of providing good service as well as doing immigration enforcement.

Jose Cardenas:
thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Jose Cardenas:
with all of the attention focused on illegal immigration, it is worth noting there are approximately 1 million people who became legal, permanent residents in the United States last year and each year that's the numbers we see. Many may wonder how the legal process works and why undocumented immigrants don't use it to come here. I talked to Marie Sebrechts about the dynamics of how to become a U.S. Citizen.

Jose Cardenas:
marie, thanks for joining us on "horizonte." before we get into some of the details of the citizenship aspects, tell us a little about the area you're responsible for and how that relates to the restructuring of immigration enforcement and processing.

Marie Sebrechts:
ok. I'm happy to do that. I work for U.S. Citizenship and immigration services, uscis. We handle all the legal immigration, all the people who come to this country temporarily or permanently going through our processing. Our two sister agencies are immigration and customs enforcement, better known as i.c.e., and they deal with immigration enforcement.

Jose Cardenas:
and border patrol would be part of that?

Marie Sebrechts:
no. Border patrol is a part of customs and border protection or c.v.p., which is essentially responsible for all entries and exits at the land, sea, and air borders.

Jose Cardenas:
as i understand, we've seen an increase recently in the number of people applying for citizenship in Arizona. I assume nationwide.
Marie Sebrechts: yes, we have. We've seen it actually nationwide. Arizona, we've seen almost a doubling of the number of applicants for citizenship.

Jose Cardenas:
and why is that?

Marie Sebrechts:
well, there are a couple of things that happened that really pushed the applications this year. One of the primary ones was that, at the end of July, USCIS raised the rates for all applications. So many people who had been on the fence about whether to apply or not made the decision to go ahead and do it before the rates went up.

Jose Cardenas:
so part of it was just financial?

Marie Sebrechts:
a lot of it was financial.
Any concern about impending legislation that might have made it more difficult to become a citizen?
I don't think that there was very much talk really in the proposed legislation about changes that would make it more difficult to become a citizen. There certainly was discussion about changes in terms of becoming a lawful permanent resident, which is the first step to staying permanently in the United States.

Jose Cardenas:
so an on annual basis, how many people are now becoming citizens in the United States?

Marie Sebrechts:
we've been averaging a little bit less than 1 million people a year in recent years.

Jose Cardenas:
which i think would surprise a lot of people.

Marie Sebrechts:
probably would. We also grant more than 1 million green cards to people every year.

Jose Cardenas:
now, let's talk a little bit about green cards, how you get them and also the distinction between permanent immigration or people coming with an intent to stay permanently and the various other kinds of visas.

Marie Sebrechts:
basically there are two types of people who come legally to this country. The first are called nonimmigrants, and that's a huge number of entries every year, more than about 30 million coming in and out every year. And that would be for pleasure, for work, seasonal work. Students who come to this country, any category that you would come to this country and be here for a limited amount of time. And that limited amount of time might be one month. It might be 10 years. Depending on why you're coming here, what category you're in. But a nonimmigrant is a term that really defines people who come here legally but don't come here with any expectation to stay forever. The next category is the immigrant, and we define an immigrant as someone who comes here to reside permanently in the United States. The very first step for everyone is to become a legal, permanent resident.

Jsoe Cardenas:
and that's getting the green card.

Marie Sebrechts:
that's it. Better known as the green card.

Jose Cardenas:
which I understand is no longer green.

Marie Sebrechts: it hasn't been green for years, but we still all call it a green card. And that's the first step. And someone becomes -- when you become a legal, permanent resident and you get your green card, you are allowed to stay here permanently. It's expected that you will stay here permanently. You even have residency requirements that you can't go away for too long or it will be considered that you abandoned your residency here. But that's the first step that people have to take before they can become a citizen. That's always the first step.

Jose Cardenas:
and they can remain in that status their entire life in this country if they wanted to?

Marie Sebrechts:
they certainly could.

Jose Cardenas:
now, tell us what the different criteria are to become a permanent, legal resident. Are there restrictions in terms of relationship with U.S. Citizens or other categories?

Marie Sebrechts:
basically there are two main ways that people can become legal, permanent residents. One is through family sponsorship or, as you indicated, a relationship with a family member in the United States. That would be that you have a U.S. Citizen spouse or parent or sibling or that you have a green card holder or permanent resident spouse or parent or sibling.

Jose Cardenas:
but in the meantime, until you get that status, you can't come into this country legally.

Marie Sebrechts:
not to stay. You could -- you could be a traveler in this country or have other ways that you could legally be in this country as a nonimmigrant.

Jose Cardenas:
tourist visa would be one example?

Marie Sebrechts:
tourist visa, as a student. You might be someone who's sponsored as a seasonal worker or something like that. But to come and stay permanently, you would need to have either family sponsorship or employment sponsorship. Those are the two main categories.

Jose Cardenas:
with respect to the various references -- and I think what we are talking about off camera was family sponsor ship. It's about a five- to 15-year wait from when you start the process to when you actually can obtain your green card?

Marie Sebrechts:
right. It's not the process actually are administering or processing the application. There must be a visa available, a visa number available for someone to come into this country.

Jose Cardenas:
so there are caps on the number of people who can come from an individual country? That's part of that delay?

Marie Sebrechts:
actually, congress establishes a number of people that can come into the country every year, and then a percentage of those caps is allocated to different countries. Each country can have no more than a certain percentage of that cap.

Jose Cardenas:
and the way it works out, as a practical matter, is even if you have a family sponsorship, it's several years ranging from five to 15 just as a practical matter?

Marie Sebrechts:
unless you're the spouse of a U.S. Citizen.

Jose Cardenas:
and is that pretty instantaneous?

Marie Sebrechts: yes.

Jose Cardenas:
are there steps being taken or is it simply a function of congress raising the caps that would shorten that process?

Marie Sebrechts:
that's not -- that's something that's established by law. So actually the statutory numbers are established by congress in the law, and so any change would have to come through a change in legislation.

Now, the process for -- cut off --

Jose Cardenas:
schools in Arizona are working hard to teach their students the English language, but there's a school in the north valley that's encouraging students to speak Spanish. Producer David Majure explains.

David Majure:
learning a foreign language isn't foreign at all at desert willow school in cave creek. Just about everywhere you turn, kids are speaking Spanish. The school feels almost multi-cultural. Well, almost. Virtually all of the students are American born, white, and English is their primary language.

Jana Miller:
this is a natural way of bringing culture into a school.

David Majure:
Dr. Jana Miller is the school's principal.

Jana Miller:
alrighty. Thanks for stopping there, you guys.

David Majure:
she greets students each morning, sending them off to classrooms where Spanish is the only spoken language.

Jana Miller:
learning another language helps kids think in another way. So these kids are different kinds of problem solvers. They're different kinds of thinkers.

Teacher:
hola.

Jana Miller:
if you go into the classrooms when they're learning their second language, there's an incredible amount of intrinsic motivation, because they have to listen intently to understand what's going on all the time. Once it starts to click -- and it doesn't take kids very long. Takes them about a month and they start making the connection with the other language -- they want to try it. And so it's automatic motivation. It's automatic reinforcement, and the kids just want to do it. They feel proud that they're learning another language.

Student:
my name is reed, and I think Spanish is easy.

Student:
my name is Sidney, and I think Spanish is fantastic.

David Majure:
about half of the school's 630 students in grades one through five participate in desert willow's completely voluntary Spanish immersion program.

Teacher:
any other good examples of an interogative?

David Majure:
they spend half their day on language arts, learning how to read and write in English.

Student:
an interjection is not a sentence. It shows strong feelings or surprise.

David Majure:
then they move into another classroom. The faces are the same, but the language has changed.

Student:
Espanol es -- fantastico.
[speaking foreign language]

Student:
me llamo Madison. Estudio en el escuela del desert willow.

Student:
me llamo Jana. Me gusta hablar espanol.

In this classroom, they'll learn math, science, and social studies, but Spanish i was the only language they'll use.

Teacher:
i am a scientist. Teacher doesn't speak English.

Jana Miller:
it doesn't work a whole lot different than any other classroom you'll see. Spanish all over the classroom. The teacher only speaks in Spanish. When the children don't understand, the teacher has to be more animated, has to explain it a different way, has to show the kids how to do it. And those are just good teaching practices. One of the questions that the parents ask is what are my kids going to lose? If they're getting this extra thing, the Spanish thing, they have to be losing something. And they're not. They're getting the exact same instruction. They're just speaking another language. And of course we want to be able to have some level of proving that, so i am always looking attest scores and making sure that our students are doing as well as the other students in those grade levels. And they're doing fantastic.

David Majure:
they may be doing even better now that the school has been awarded a three-year federal foreign language grant totaling nearly half a million dollars. It will pay for teachers' aides, Spanish books, and software that until now have been difficult to obtain. Meanwhile, students are finding it somewhat easy to acquire a new language.

Jana Miller:
they can understand anything in Spanish. The expressive part is what we're always working on, because beyond our classroom, once they leave that two and a half hours, they don't have a lot of opportunities to speak and practice.

David Majure:
it's a similar situation for other schools who are trying to educate English language learners.

Jana Miller:
we're kind of trying to do the same thing as far as language acquisition. However, what the state is doing with students who are coming in who are not English speakers, they're trying to get those students prepared to learn academics. Our students are prepared to learn academics.

David Majure:
now desert willow wants to prepare them for the world.

Jana Miller:
we don't have any idea what kind of jobs we're preparing these kids for, because our world is changing so quickly. Information is out of control. It's an information in time. And i don't think we know what kind of jobs we're preparing them for, but i do think we know that they are global type jobs, and so i want our kids to be ready, and i want to prepare them, and i hope other schools will take off on the model and learn from it so that lots of kids get this opportunity.

Jose Cardenas:
next year the school will include kindergarten students in its Spanish immersion program.

Jose Cardenas:
phoenix voters will decide the district 7 run-off race on November 6th. Next Thursday here from the candidates about their positions on the issues in the district. That's "Horizonte" for this Thursday I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for watching. Have a good evening.

Announcer:
funding for "Horizonte" is provided by S.R.P.
S.R.P.'s business is water and power, but our dedication to the community doesn't stop there. S.R.P., delivering more than power. Thank you.

Marie Sebrechts:;

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