Immigration Reform in the United States
Year by which President Barack Obama has stated he will have a proposal for immigration reform
Percentage of minorities who voted in 2012 election
Percentage of minorities who voted in 2008 election
SOURCE: Pew Research Center; San Francisco Chronicle
In light of President Barack Obama’s re-election earlier this month, many UCLA students are focusing their efforts on national immigration policy reform.
Minorites, particularly Latinos, are growing in number in the United States and are voting in greater numbers, said Fernando Torres-Gil, a professor of social welfare and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. This makes the prospect of national immigration reform more possible, he added.
Minorities ““ defined as blacks, Asians, and Latinos ““ made up 28 percent of the electorate in the 2012 presidential election, according to a Pew Research Center report ““ an increase of 2 percent since the 2008 election.
Latinos will continue to become a larger portion of the electorate in the coming years, Torres-Gil said.
Voters passed the California Dream Act in 2010, which grants financial aid to undocumented students. Many students like third-year Chicana and Chicano studies and sociology student Yadira Valencia, said they want to focus on immigration reform on a national scale.
The national DREAM Act failed in the Senate in 2010, in President Obama’s first term. If passed, it would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented students who obtained at least a two-year college degree or served for two years in the military after meeting certain criteria.
“(Obama) came in with this idea of immigration reform, and there was a wait for four years,” said Valencia, a member of Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success at UCLA ““ commonly referred to as IDEAS at UCLA.
IDEAS at UCLA advocates for legislation that supports undocumented students, such as A.B. 540 ““ a California state law that allows qualified undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at California’s public higher education institutions ““ and the California Dream Act.
“Now … we don’t just want immigration reform for undocumented students, we want immigration reform for everybody,” Valencia said.
This summer, Obama introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program taken into effect Aug. 15 that grants temporary relief from deportation to undocumented individuals who grew up and were educated in the United States. The program, however, does not provide a pathway to citizenship.
“(Deferred Action) was just a Band-Aid,” said Denise Panaligan, a second-year math and economics student and a member of IDEAS. “It’s just two years. Two years compared to the rest of our lives, that’s a very small amount of relief.”
In his first press conference after his re-election, Obama said he plans to have a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform “very soon” after his inauguration in January 2013, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Because of the high Latino turnout for Obama during the most recent election, fourth-year Spanish student Blanca Alcantara said she expects the president to live up to his promise of immigration reform.
On Capitol Hill, House Representatives are currently drafting a bipartisan blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes provisions such as enforcing border security by building more fences and creating a path to citizenship for all undocumented people already in the U.S., according to the Boston Globe.
Alcantara said she wants Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform before he leaves office, but is skeptical about the proposal.
“Securing the borders has always been talked about, but it’s not working (now),” she said.
Since the passage of the California Dream Act in 2010, IDEAS shifted its focus to promoting a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals on a national scale, said Jose Quintero, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering who is the co-chair of IDEAS.
Last year, IDEAS hosted workshops and rallies as part of its attempt to educate the local community about the economic and societal benefits of the federal DREAM Act. Members hope to continue their efforts this year, now that Obama has been re-elected to his second term, Quintero said.
As time evolves, Torres-Gil expects immigration reform will become easier, he said.
“The U.S. will soon move to where Japan, Europe, and other nations which are already experiencing a decline in their (native) population to realize they need immigrants and foreign workers,” he said.