A week into his second term, President Barack Obama promised an overhaul of the immigration system. On 29 January from Las Vegas, Obama announced his support for a bipartisan agreement (Republican and Democrat) that will start the citizenship proceedings for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the US, a process that has posed a more than welcomed reception across party lines also includes dispositions that might be potentially costly for immigrants.
The President's announcement comes a day after eight senators- four from each party, including Republicans John McCain and Marco Rubio and Democrats Bob Menéndez and Charles Schumer- announced a proposal that aims to strengthen the country's borders, verify workers’ legal statuses, and allow students to continue university studies. While sectors of the Republican Party maintain their skepticism, the proposal to re-write immigration law is unprecedented in light of the in-fighting between parties that has stagnated reform in recent years.
Novel as it may be, the proposal still lacks specific – and necessary- details about the reforms it promises. How will border security be strengthened? What is the journey to citizenship for an undocumented worker that is already in the United States? The path to citizenship still requires extensive deliberation as Senators need to reach a compromise regarding Senator Rubio's proposal, which would not increase the number of available visas to permanent residents, commonly referred to as green cards.
While immigration overhaul includes all individuals regardless of race or nationality, it will have the largest impact on the hispanic community. One clear example stems from the sheer location from which Obama chose to make his supporting address: a predominately Latino school. During his speech, he called upon his famous “Yes We Can” slogan to rally support. The Latino community has felt the brunt of the United States’ anti-immigration sentiments such as S.B. 1070 in Arizona and HB56 in Alabama. In spite of this, it must be noted that it is this very community that has been the most vocal in its desire for changes to current law. Take for example DREAMERs, a proposed path for citizenship for students of upstanding moral character that currently lack proper documentation. This fight won an important victory with the deferred action plan.
In response to the address, Twitter users expressed their optimism:
@GuilleCanoFdez: Cambian las condiciones de inmigración en estados unidos (facilidades para estudiantes) se ve la luz!!
@GuilleCanoFdez: They're changing immigration in the U.S. (good news for students!)! There's a light at the end of the tunnel!
@CamiloDeGuzman: En la fibra de EEUU hay un legado de inmigrantes buscando una promesa de vida, libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad #ReformaMigratoriaEEUU
@CamiloDeGuzman: The legacy of immigration to the US lives on: the quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness #ReformaMigratoriaEEUU[immigration reform]
@CeciliaRamirezH: Presidente Obama en su discurso parece estar muy determinado y decidido a resolver los problemas de inmigracion de los Estados Unidos!
@CeciliaRamirezH: Based on his address, President Obama seems to be very determined and resolved to changing the problem of immigration in the US!
@hapinto2: Senadores dan a conocer plan de reforma migratoria bipartidista -Confiemos q el proyecto esta vez sí vaya adelante http://uni.vi/1RBzwt #USA
@hapinto2: Senators propose a bipartisan plan for immigration reform – We're confident the project will move forward this time http://uni.vi/1RBzwt #USA
@ElPrimoQueBuena: Una luz de esperanza :) http://ow.ly/hcGEB
@ElPrimoQueBuena: The light of hope! :) http://ow.ly/hcGEB
@preatyligthia: Un logro muy importante para todos los latinos que residen en los Estados Unidos el acuerdo de Migración que llego el Senado de dicho país.!
@preatyligthia: An important achievement for all Latinos in the US is the agreement Senators just reached on immigration reform.
Others remained more skeptical, like Juan Manuel Benítez (@JuanMaBenitez):
@JuanMaBenitez: Si la #reformamigratoriaEEUU llega, el número de personas regularizadas será mucho menor a 11 millones. Se esperan requisitos duros.
@JuanMaBenitez: If #reformamigratoriaEEUU [immigration reform] actually passes, the number of legalized people will be a lot less than 11 million. Expect tough requirements.
Eduardo del Río reminds us that reform isn't just considered within the borders of the US (@E_del_Rio):
@E_del_Rio: México da la bienvenida al debate sobre una reforma integral al sistema de inmigración de Estados Unidos. http://ow.ly/hfbLT
@E_del_Rio: Mexico welcomes the debate for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. http://ow.ly/hfbLT
Human Rights Watch in Spanish (@hrw_espanol) warns that if Congress doesn't act quickly in rewriting immigration law, they run the risk of violating basic human rights:
@hrw_espanol: Si el Congreso no se enfoca en proteger derechos fundamentales, abusos podrían quedarse sin resolver #inmigracion http://tinyurl.com/9wnxs96
@hrw_espanol: If Congress doesn't act to protect fundamental human rights, abuses would remain unresolved. #immigration http://tinyurl.com/9wnxs96
While Eduardo Suárez (@eduardosuarez) emphasizes points made in the Senators’ address:
@eduardosuarez: Rubio recuerda que el control de la frontera no es sólo un problema de inmigración sino de criminalidad. #reformamigratoriaEEUU
@eduardosuarez: Rubio reminded us that border control isn't just an immigration problem, but a criminal problem. #reformamigratoriaEEUU [immigration reform]