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Immigration reform would help entire Pennsylvania families thrive

Most Lancaster County residents probably know at least one person who wasn't born in the United States -- but they may not even realize that fact, especially if the acquaintance immigrated at a very young age. 

Whether that person is a 90-year-old neighbor or the 17-year-old barista who serves you at your local coffee shop every morning, many of these members of the community came the United States without a choice. They live and work among us because their parents brought them to this country with hopes of building a better life. They were educated in American schools, follow all of our state and federal laws and have the same dreams and goals as those who were born in the U.S. The only difference might be that the teenage coffee shop worker can't afford to attend college because as an undocumented immigrant, she must pay non-resident tuition.

It may seem like a minor setback to the average American, but a blocked pathway to higher education and other privileges of citizenship often lowers the success rate for every member of an immigrant's family, regardless of whether they came to the U.S. by choice.

Immigration reform advocates hope that proposed legislation will make it easier for undocumented workers and their families to obtain citizenship. Under a bill proposed by eight U.S. senators, these workers would be able to seek provisional immigrant status while they continued to work and live in the U.S. After 10 years they would qualify for a permanent green card, and for citizenship after 13 years. Young people who came to the U.S. as children would be eligible for citizenship after five years.

For those who assume that undocumented workers are solely interested in making money, it pays to consider the dynamics of a family working together toward successful immigration. Adults who bring their children to the U.S. support them as they attend school. Children of immigrants often act as the family translator and English teacher, helping their parents understand U.S. customs, laws and culture. Families that are able to work and support each other are more productive and can contriubute to American society in a meaningful way -- just as immigrants to the U.S. have been doing for multiple generations. Immigration reform may very well benefit society as a whole, helping all of us do better. 

Source: LehighValleyLive.com, "Allentown woman says family's struggles fuel fight for immigration reform," Precious Petty, May 1, 2013