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Fairness Should Be An American Value, Too

by Allen Ladd, Esq.

Twelve million illegal aliens. A porous border. A maze of immigration laws. What can we do to fix this mess?

We must secure our borders. We must enforce existing immigration laws. And yet, we need a constructive solution for those individuals who have families and employers who are willing to help.

I want to offer a simple proposal that will fix a big part of the problem. It is time to review what is called the "10-year bar." It is a very large stumbling block in the U.S. immigration statutory framework. It keeps deserving cases from being approved by closing the door to permanent residence. It forces applicants who have immigration violations -- such as making an illegal entry years ago -- to leave their families and wait outside the United States for 10 years. Only the most extreme cases are spared this ordeal. Understandably, it has put several million American citizens -- family members and employers -- in distress. Limiting the 10-year bar, as I am proposing, does not require a major overhaul of the laws. It is a simple solution.

To begin this discussion, which illegal aliens are we talking about? I have in mind the ones I meet every day in my law office, accompanied by their neighbors, their employers and their American spouses. People who want them to have legal status. They work hard, pay taxes, honor religious and family traditions, and teach their children to live sensibly and responsibly. They build our homes and office buildings. They welcome us in their restaurants. Legal or illegal, these individuals are an accepted -- and needed -- part of the fabric of our community.

What about the U.S. immigration laws? This may come as a surprise to many readers, but they are very tough. We tend to believe that there is an easy way in, say through marriage or having children -- or that illegal immigrants have somehow acquired "squatter's rights" to legal status. But that is simply false.

How tough are our immigration laws? Let me offer a few examples:

In the first place, the laws tend to keep people from poorer countries from getting visas to the United States. So they have no chance to come in legally. And visas for professionals, and skilled and unskilled workers, are severely limited. (Too bad; that's a lost opportunity to maintain American competitiveness in the global economy.)

And inside the United States, many cases fail. A past mistake, or lapse, and it's all over. For someone who didn't make a legal entry in the first place, or could not keep "in status," it is impossible to get back on his feet. For many who marry American citizens, even with children, the path from the altar actually leads to immigration limbo -- or worse, to deportation.

Even in the rare successful cases, the expense is burdensome. Government filing fees alone can reach over $1,000.

The immigration laws are particularly tough on employment cases. Short-term or "guest worker" visas are limited to only a relatively few: multinational transferees (think of BMW or Michelin), professionals, competitive athletes, etc. For construction workers, factory supervisors or restaurant employees, employers may begin the longer, more demanding process for permanent residence -- but it will be blocked in many cases by the 10-year bar. Even worse, the employer may be prosecuted for immigration violations, even while trying to go through the process legally.

In short, the present system is plenty tough. Certainly there's room for some fairness. A simple step would be to remove the 10-year stumbling block, plain and simple. What would that do? It would allow "sponsored" family members and employees to leave the United States and continue the case back in the home country -- at their own expense -- and apply for re-entry. It's sensible. It's fair. The immigration law system worked well for years, unhindered by the 10-year bar.

The 10-year bar blocks access to Social Security cards, driver's licenses and automobile insurance. Having unlicensed drivers on the road means dangerous highways for all of us. The 10-year bar also closes the door to college to many deserving children. Does it really make sense to perpetuate this losing situation?

I believe the 10-year bar has blocked several million individuals from getting to permanent residence. It has hindered a sensible immigration policy. Eliminating the 10-year bar would cost American taxpayers nothing. It only makes sense.

As Americans, we pride ourselves in our national traits: justice, common sense and fairness. We have a chance to put this pride into practice. Please contact Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, and U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis. Urge Congress to review the 10-year bar and bring fairness back to our country's immigration laws.

This article originally appeared in the Greenville News. All rights reserved by Allen Ladd and the Greenville News.

About The Author

Allen Ladd, Esq. is an immigration attorney. His areas of practice include business visas, family-based permanent residence, employment-based permanent residence, naturalization, and among others.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.