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Prensa Libre, Guatemala

TPS, Moral Compromise

By Julio Ligorría Carballido

Translated By Nicole Irizarry

6 February 2013

Edited by Ketu­rah Hetrick

Guatemala - Prensa Libre - Original Article (Spanish)

In a rare occurrence, it seems like the long-awaited U.S. immigration reform could soon become a reality. President Obama has made official his intention to find a solution to the immigration status of 11 million illegal immigrants who, according to statistics, are turning into a viable to solution to a few of the U.S.’s problems. Increases in tax revenue and a reduction of expenses resulting from persecuting illegal immigrants are some of the implicit benefits derived from the plan that Obama has turned into the first project of his second term.

There has not been any real immigration reform since 1986. During that time, Republican President Ronald Regan opened the door to the legalization of about 3 million undocumented immigrants — close to 40 percent of the estimated illegal population — and even though many pointed out that the law was incomplete due to ignoring the increasing flow of those searching for the American Dream, the integration of an important sector of society was a positive result. The Latin-American immigrants started becoming a significant political, electoral and even military force, turning into a decisive group during elections and helping fight American wars.

The idea of reforming immigration laws is not new. Years ago, then-President Bill Clinton had brought up the possibility of regularizing the position of illegal immigrants, turning them into citizens and contributors, with all the inherent responsibilities and rights.

It is that same exercise of trying to add brainpower, taxes, qualified labor and investors that underlies President Obama’s proposal. At the same time, he seeks to reduce or control outbreaks of racial tension — even though it may not be spoken aloud, that would be one of the results of a comprehensive immigration reform.

Even if the hope for an oncoming comprehensive immigration reform may not be too far away — Obama believes he can do it before the end of the year — Guatemala must continue to seek the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with the United States on behalf of its migrants. It would not be out of the ordinary for senators and congressmen to engage in a prolonged discussion about the potential reform while the number of deported Guatemalans increases, directly affecting the economy and national spirit. National spirit? Yes. Every deported immigrant carries in his pocket a story of sacrifice that becomes futile once they are captured and returned to their country. The social impact that each return has cannot be collectively quantified. Only those who have run the risk of illegally traveling to pursue an opportunity in the U.S. can know the burden of having to come back without achieving their goal.

This is why it is a wise decision for the Guatemalan government to continue pursuing TPS. While the new reform is being constructed, Immigration Services will not suspend their raids; the risks for undocumented people will not abate, and it may become likely that with the looming prospect of reform the conditions for our fellow countrymen — and all undocumented immigrants — will worsen. We are talking about 850,000 Guatemalans for whom TPS would be an opportunity to await the reform with a semblance of peace. We are talking about an effort that the Guatemalan government should accelerate, of a moral obligation that other governments did not want to fulfill and that now could become a reality.



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