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Independent’s Day: The Issue Behind the Immigration Issue

By Jason Howell

Wednesday - 3/13/2013, 3:00pm  ET

Independent’s Day is an occasional opinion column by published on Wednesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Independent Congressional candidate Jason HowellTo our elected officials, a request: please deal with the issue behind the immigration issue. Like everything this year, immigration reform will eventually rely on available resources.

Last Saturday I attended an event in Falls Church hosted by what was called the “Virginians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform — Strategy Meeting.”

In attendance were various notables from the political and immigration reform community. There was Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada, 49th District Delegate Alfonso Lopez, and representatives from every one of Virginia’s eleven U.S. Congressional Districts. Also present were representatives from Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine’s offices, as well as the organizer of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), Chair Edgar Aranda-Yanoc.

Stated briefly, the goals were to:

  1. Create some consensus around the principles of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) debate.
  2. Form a strategy on creating awareness around current CIR legislation being considered and advocate for its urgency.

It was quite an afternoon. The event had no partisan intent, but politics were very much on the lips of the presenters (as a means to an end). Leni Gonzalez, from the League of United Latin American Citizens Council (LULAC), took the time to describe each Congressman’s position on immigration reform. She referenced both where each had been on the issue and where they needed some “gentle pushing.” The afternoon was a call for not just vocal but political participation on one of this year’s most provocative issues.

Not surprisingly, our neighbors had a broad and deep knowledge of the issues affecting immigrants, though not everyone was in agreement with all of the fixes being discussed. A question was asked regarding to what extent people of dissenting views were invited. The answer was muddled or mumbled, I can’t remember which, but it made clear the challenges associated with “grass roots” organizations when in their infancy. This group is just now coming together when legislation is imminent. Taken in the context of a Senate bill that may be completed by early April, the urgency for a clear consensus on the needs of stakeholders (families, businesses, first responders, etc.) is apparent but perhaps unlikely.

I happen to agree that eleven million people will not “self-deport” and should be given a mechanism for legal status; one that neither overwhelms our systems for processing them nor disenfranchises those who have endured years-long waiting periods.

But to properly begin dealing with the immigration issue, we will need to ensure that there are resources, both human and financial, that can undertake whatever decisions our politicians make. To truly “go big” we should first address the underlying resource limitations.

The US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency tasked with legal immigration into the United States. It does not cost taxpayers anything; its costs are funded by the ones doing the “immigrating.” As with all user-fee agencies, USCIS funds are sent to the federal government’s General Fund at the end of the year and later must be appropriated back to have its budget funded. But there is no guarantee that the funding will match the revenue that was generated or could be generated by USCIS.

If we changed the law to allow USCIS to expand, in direct relationship to the demand upon its services, we could see improved efficiency, encourage legal immigration and give hope to federal workers; hope that the pile of green card applications on their desk may one day become manageable. And all it would cost U.S. taxpayers is a little creativity — a change in how we appropriate funds to user-fee agencies.

We would then be dealing with the issue behind the issue of legal immigration.

Jason Howell, a former accountant and motivational speakerran as an independent candidate for U.S. Congress in 2012.