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Op-Ed: A Primer on Immigration for 2020 Candidates and Voters

Feeling dizzy from all the spinning in political rhetoric these days? Let’s pause and take a look at what’s what in immigration today and in the 2020 election cycle.

The Line. While some people will admit wanting an end to immigration altogether, most critics of immigration say they just want immigrants to “do it the right way." “Get in line." However, unless you qualify through employment (discussed below), or you have an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (spouse or parent), there is no line to get into. And the wait in line can be over twenty years! If you don’t have a qualifying relative or employer, the only options left to you may be humanitarian visas or asylum. All of these options have caps and require extensive research and knowledge of immigration law. Your chances of success without an immigration attorney (at your own expense) are slim to none, especially if you have any criminal or immigration issues.

2020 candidates should address paths to citizenship for hardworking foreign nationals who come here fleeing violence, poverty and corruption in search of hope. They will come, whether we like it or not. But will they hide in the shadows in constant fear of deportation or walk in the light?

The Wall. Drugs come to this country by air, boat, vehicle (through checkpoints) and mail. Building a wall will not stop them. People come to this country desperate and afraid, escaping extreme poverty, corruption and violence.

They want to give their children opportunities for a decent future. They crossed many miles on foot with no food or water, so a wall won’t stop them. We aren’t made safer by a wall. Immigrant communities have lower crime than communities with low immigrant populations. Places like El Paso, Texas, were safer before the wall. What the wall does do is take land from landowners in the U.S., create an eyesore in some of the most beautiful land in the world, cause the deaths of vulnerable people, and cost U.S. taxpayers over $20 billion that could better be spent on real border security.

2020 candidates should improve border security by combating corruption and poverty in Latin America. In addition, immigration courts and offices must be fully staffed so that applications may be processed quickly and efficiently.

The Cages. Separating families and imprisoning children in cages, or in makeshift shelters in an underpass, is cruel, inhumane and in many cases criminal. Children have died from illness and malnutrition, and scores more have reported being sexually, physically and emotionally abused. People of all ages are kept in worse conditions than shelter animals, causing lifelong trauma.

2020 candidates must make it clear that we cannot treat our fellow human beings like insects. We need better policies for processing people as soon as they approach the border, keeping track of where they go, and getting them working as quickly as possible.

The Jobs. Automation replaced 9 percent of jobs in 2018, and companies are offshoring jobs at a record pace under the Trump administration. Yet some people inaccurately blame immigrants for job shortages. Only highly skilled or well-educated foreign nationals can get green cards efficiently, and employment visas, such as H-1B visas — which have already reached their cap for 2020! — for foreign nationals are getting harder to come by. Employers have to prove through a long and expensive process that they were unable to find U.S. citizens for jobs they fill with foreign nationals.

2020 candidates must address the issue of job loss to automation and offshoring by investing in American businesses, building skills in the workforce, and better educating Americans. And they should support U.S. businesses by making it easier to employ whomever they want, regardless of nationality.

2020 needs to see a shift away from fear-based decision-making about immigration and toward compassionate policies that make sense for America.

Award-winning attorney Julia Guzman of Littleton owns Guzman Immigration, specializing in family-based and humanitarian immigration visas and citizenship. She is the American Immigration Lawyers Association of Colorado media chair and sits on the board of nonprofit organization Immigrant Pathways Colorado. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Westword occasionally publishes essays and op-eds on issues of interest to the Denver community. If you'd like to submit one, send it to editorial@westword.com.

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