A path to American citizenship may soon be possible for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, as members of the Duke community weigh in on the likelikhood that major changees to immigration policy would take place.
A bipartisan Senate committee has reached an agreement on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The proposal addresses several components of immigration reform, primarily a path to citizenship possible for most illegal immigrants. They would be required to register with the federal government and then face a series of background checks, taxes and fines to receive “probationary legal status.” Such legislation would affect current Duke students with undocumented relatives as well as the University’s future applicant pool, said Noah Pickus, Nannerl O. Keohane director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
“With a broken immigration system, it becomes harder to attract the best talent and hang onto them once they complete their education,” Pickus added. “The more we have a system that people believe is fair and just, the more likely Duke is to benefit from that system.”
The reform could also have a major impact on current students. David,* a freshman, has a personal stake in immigration reform as several of his aunts, uncles and cousins are undocumented immigrants. He explained that if pushed through Congress, this proposal would provided opportunities for immigrant families.
“Right now, [my family] can’t get citizenship, and its hard for them to find jobs,” he said. “The jobs they do find are paid under the table, so many times [their rights] can be abused.”
It is especially difficult for his younger cousins in public schools who will face obstacles when later attempting to pursue a college degree. Most undocumented immigrants are not able to receive federal financial aid, and paying for college on their own is incredibly difficult if not impossible, he added. But he remains hopeful that Congress will reach an agreement that will allow his relatives to gain citizenship.
“I [understand that] there are undocumented people who live in this country and don’t follow the rules and don’t pay taxes,” he said. “But my family does, and they just want to be able to make a positive impact on this country.”
Both sophomore David Winegar, president of Duke Democrats, and junior Taylor Imperiale, chair of Duke College Republicans, said this proposed reform is a step in the right direction for both parties. Other students are also hopeful that Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on legislation. Freshman Diego Nogales, a member of Duke University’s Latino student association Mi Gente, is confident that Congress will pass the reform because of recent attention the issues has received, forcing the government to take action.
Freshman Arjan Saraon agrees that Congress should turn the proposal into actual legislation.
“America is built on the back of immigrants,” Saraon noted. “So if these illegal immigrants want to be a part of productive American society, we should give them the chance.”
*Name has been changed for the source’s protection. Source’s class year is accurate.