Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is one of the nation’s most prominent Latino political leaders. As the governmental head of one of the country’s most important metropolitan areas, which has a large Hispanic population, Villaraigosa is able to speak to many political figures as well as members of the Latino community. He recently had an interview with U.S. News in which he detailed the brokenness of the U.S. immigration system. As an immigration attorney in another region where there is a large Latino community–Austin, Texas–I understood many of the positions that he took.
The recent presidential election evidenced the surging importance of Latino voters and has helped energize the immigration reform movement in Washington. Villarigosa and other Latino leaders have recognized the time is ripe for movement on these issues and has made some suggestions. He points to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now residing throughout the U.S. and the more than 5 million children born in America. He also cites the enormous expenditures on border enforcement that dwarf the budgets of the FBI, ATF and DEA combined.
He states that these economic and social issues can be solved by conferring legal status on many of these immigrants. The group of young Latino immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before their 18th birthday, commonly known as Dreamers–in reference to the DREAM Act which would grant them legal status–could generate an additional $329 billion over ten years if they were permitted to enter American society. If all 11 million could become contributing members of society, Villaraigosa proposes that $1.5 trillion could be added to the U.S. economy.
They could become university students, obtain professional training, and legally acquire employment. Villaraigosa lauded Obama’s proposal to grant H-1B visas to anyone who came to the U.S. to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Villaraigosa also suggested that agricultural workers need to have some type of employment framework as well.
Villaraigosa opined that citizenship should be available to those undocumented immigrants who are willing to pay back taxes, learn English, pass a background check and demonstrate the desire to become productive members of American society. He shied away from calling this process an amnesty as these immigrants will have to earn their status through patience and hard work. He posits the alternative which is the deportation of 11 million people is inconceivable.
Villaraigosa intends to take his opinions to Washington D.C., where he hopes Congressional leaders will consider them seriously. He has announced he will make several trips to the nation’s capital in coming months where he hopes to have sincere conversations with members of Congress and the administration.
As an experienced immigration attorney in Texas, I understand and sympathize with Mayor Villarigosa’s stands on many issues. I also hope that Congress will pass an immigration reform package in this or the next year to address the many failures of the immigration system.
If you or someone you know has questions about upcoming changes in the immigration system, please contact my office at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a private consult.