No Solutions Offered

Immigration is an emotional issue being felt by every person in the U.S.
The issue is debated in the halls of congress and on the streets.
Elizabeth McCormick, University of Tulsa Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, said the emotionally-charged issue often is misunderstood even by the most well-intentioned people.
For example, she continued, ‘‘when I first came to Tulsa to talk to the folks at TU about the proposed immigration clinic, the board wondered if there was such a need here.’’
The reality is that one of the largest Hispanic communities is located just north of the law school.
People wouldn’t know that because those individuals choose to keep a low profile, McCormick continued. When the issue comes up passions run high in debates. Congress is dealing with immigration reform and many efforts to find solutions have been explored.
While no one is denying for one second the problem exists, they also realize that no quick fix is possible, she said. The question is whether tightened controls and employment issues can be resolved.
Some think that all immigration into this country should be stopped in the interest of national security.
It was hoped that an immigration bill would be passed last spring, but now the U.S. House of Representatives has made it known that no bill will be passed out of that body before the mid-term elections. Homeland security issues are being considered — including the construction of a 700 mile fence — as well as how to deal with the people who have entered this country illegally.
Another issue that must be resolved is how to deal with between eight and 12 million non citizens in this country who have lived and worked here for many years, McCormick said. These issues make any new law complex.
McCormick, who came to Tulsa to develop the immigration law clinic now in its second year, said students enrolled in that discipline have been drawn to it based on a personal interest.
These students are getting the opportunity to be interactive with people who have been impacted by immigration policy.
Law students at the Boesche Legal Clinic have a part in helping people. Their job is representing anyone fearing for their lives and fleeing their country seeking asylum from persecution. Many of these people have seen family members or loved ones killed.
While these people seeking asylum are entitled to legal representation, their attorney fees are not paid by the U.S. government, McCormick said. As a result, either must pay for their own lawyer or seek pro bono assistance.
In addition to services provided by TU, immigrants also can seek assistance from organizations like the YWCA and Catholic Charities.
‘‘The work is hugely important to the community because these people have no ordinary access to legal services,’’ McCormick said. Many non-citizens try to represent themselves in court, but their likelihood of success is 17 times greater when they have counsel.
A big issue is assisting immigrants impacted by domestic violence, she continued. Generally, these victims are women who have married a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
Since they depend upon their spouse for a legal status, they are most vulnerable.
Generally, what happens in these situations is the spouse threatens them with deportation if they don’t do what they desire, McCormick said. For the woman, already economically dependent upon her spouse, it could mean leaving her American-born children behind if the threat is carried out.
‘‘Our students try to help these women achieve their legal status without being dependent on their partner,’’ she added.
‘‘It may be easy to talk on television about building a fence, shutting the door and freezing immigration into this country,’’ McCormick said. But the talk hides the work of many who are working toward a possible resolution to the issue.
Pressure is being put on authorities to arrest these people, something people in law enforcement strongly oppose, McCormick said. First, this detaining work would take them from their job of investigating crimes. Second, there is no space readily available to house these individuals. Third, it would dry up an information source about real lawbreakers having negative impacts on the community.
Some people say politics has made immigration a big issue and scare tactics are used to get support.
The proposals about a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border has allowed some to tap into the fear factor of the American people, she added. Everything is fuzzy enough to get people riled up.
At some point someone is going to reach a consensus the only way to resolve the issue is to get true reforms effected.
Those reforms will have to address what to do with the millions of people who have worked and lived in this country for many years and have American-born children.
A study has shown that the only people really affected by immigration in the U.S. are those individuals dropping out of high school and competing for minimum wage jobs, she said. ‘‘I don’t think the demand for jobs will stop people from coming in for this work.
Those places where industry uses illegal immigrants and pay low wages, but there is no logical assurance that if wages were raised that people would be there to fill them, McCormick said. ‘‘I don’t think many undocumented workers are competing for the high paying jobs.’’
Many jobs being filled by immigrants may not be on the low end of the wage scale, she said. They could be those roofing houses, building roads, working construction jobs, filling agriculture positions.
If these jobs were not filled by immigrants, people might have to wait longer to get their roof replaced, pay more for groceries, have construction work delayed. Regardless of who fills these jobs, the labor issue is not going away.
Everyone is impacted, she said. The issue is not to have employers abuse immigrants. They cannot hold them as slaves.
But, no one knows when effective immigration legislation will be passed by the U.S. House and Senate.



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