Past immigration policies deny much-needed security for workers

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After making promises in his 2008 campaign to bring change to immigration policies in America, President Obama finally came through last week when he announced a policy change that would focus only on deporting those illegal immigrants that are convicted criminals or a threat to the public. Although this is a small step in dealing with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in America, it is a much-appreciated one.

Obama had previously failed to make any changes to immigration policy and deported an unprecedented 800,000 people in the past two years. The changes the government proposes would help the same immigrants that long-stalled legislation like the Dream Act would have aided. A viable solution must be found for those 12 million undocumented lives. These immigrants live with no assurance of a future in the very society that they contribute to. Many undocumented immigrants are extremely intelligent and ambitious, but simply have no opportunity in their country.

The argument that immigrants take opportunities from Americans is completely false; in fact, the majority of U.S. unemployment lies in the highest-educated segments of the population. Because of increases in this segment of the population, the demand for low-skilled workers increases every year. However, these workers live in constant fear of being found and forced to leave their homes, families, friends, and jobs.

Many illegal immigrants entered the country legally but have expired visas from traveling, studying, or working. Take, for example, the highly publicized case of Jose Vargas. Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Post writer, recently outed himself as an undocumented worker and has gathered the sympathies of millions — including myself. Vargas’ mother sent him to America from the Philippines when he was 13 in the hopes that he might live a better life. In fact, he did not discover that he was in the country illegally until he was 16. Because of this, he cannot leave the country, his opportunities have been limited, and — worst of all — he has had to live in daily fear of being outed and deported.

Many of us have — knowingly or unknowingly — met and even befriended undocumented workers. The U.S.’s policy has been inhumane, often separating mother and child, husband and wife. The small number of temporary visas for skilled workers is 5,000 — an obviously inadequate number for a vast country like America. In a nation built on opportunity, diversity, and freedom, it is absurd to force someone who has lived here for the majority of his or her life to leave.