Immigration laws topic of Davies discussion

Katie Bast, Staff Writer

Over 100 students, professors and community members packed the Ojibwe Room of Davies Center Wednesday to participate in a discussion on immigration reform with immigration lawyer Victoria Seltun.

Seltun provided comprehensive information on the immigration laws in our country and its problems.

Many of the problems revolve around the slow process of becoming an American citizen. Seltun said some people from the Philippines who applied for a Green Card in 1989 are just receiving them now.

The immigration laws haven’t been changed since 1986 and no longer reflect the economic realities of our country, Seltun said.

The difficulties in getting reform passed often goes back to the unwillingness of congress to compromise, but there is reason for optimism that could all be changing, Seltun said.

This optimism stems from three actions passed in the last few years. The first, Seltun said, is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She described it as a “watered-down DREAM Act. Those who came to the United States as children and meet key criteria may be eligible for work authorization, Seltun said.

Other rules include the Stateside Provision Unlawful Presence Waivers, which makes it possible for spouses of United States citizens to get waivers in the U.S. instead of their home country, which can take up to ten years, Seltun said.

Another act allows for the review of certain deportation cases. The goal of this is to shift the focus of deportation to criminal aliens. It makes it easier for those who have close ties to their neighborhood, family members who are U.S. citizens and DREAM Act children to stay in the country, Seltun said.

Seltun said there’s even more reason to be optimistic that immigration reform could be passed in the near future.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has passed things like Hurricane Sandy relief and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, even though many Republicans voted against them. Seltun said this is good news for immigration reform because it shows republicans are open to passing things they haven’t been open to in the past.

Seltun said Senator Marco Rubio is providing facts and data preventing immigration opponents from being as vocal as they have been in the past. Pundits who have been against immigration reform in the past are listening to the facts.

Both parties are committed to finding a way to create a path to earned citizenship, Seltun said.

Seltun outlined many of President Obama’s plans for immigration reform. Issues like stronger border security, cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers and streamlining legal immigration are top priorities.

The discussion was important to students and professors alike.

Assistant professor of Latin American Studies Gerardo Lícon is hopeful the speech was effective in educating students.

“It is a topic that is increasingly important to Wisconsin that I think a lot of young people are not familiar with,” Lícon said. “In a national context of U.S immigration reform being a prominent topic, I think discussing this on campus allows UWEC students to be informed when they enter those national debates.”

Freshman Chandra Weyrauch is interested in the topic because it’s something she’s seen firsthand when her Spanish professor was nearly deported because her visa expired.

“I want to learn more about why it takes so long to let (immigrants) become citizens,” Weyrauch said. “It’s important because it’s an issue that affects all of the nation and there are a lot of illegal immigrants here, so something needs to be done to close the gap.”

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