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Current patchwork of immigration laws tear families apart, hurt businesses

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:33 p.m. CDT

To the editor:

As an immigration attorney in Iowa for the past 15 years, I’ve see firsthand how our current patchwork of immigration laws tears Iowa families apart and hurts Iowa businesses.  Many relatives of U.S. citizens and residents have waited 20-plus years since they first started the application process to immigrate because of per country limits. 

Employers filing for skilled or professional employees wait 17-plus years for a critical employee’s residency to be processed. Young people who were brought here as children, undocumented or visa overstays, are educated in our public schools and after graduation can’t use that education because there isn’t a process to apply for them.

Iowa educates foreign born young people at our colleges and universities who follow the rules in F-1 or J-1 status. Then we make it difficult for them to stay and contribute after graduation. 

A large number migrate to Canada where they are welcomed easily with their Iowa Master’s degrees and PhDs to innovate Canadian companies.

The recent focus on immigration reform has given me hope and optimism for Iowa to help reverse our declining population, but this is tempered by realism. The public is demanding a plan that includes a humane road forward for both the best and brightest that come here for education and our undocumented friends and community members who all want to participate fully and contribute.

The Senate’s bipartisan set of principles demonstrates that lawmakers from both parties can come together to frame a solution that works for our highly educated graduates, undocumented immigrants, businesses, families, indeed for Iowa. Single-minded focus on border enforcement is a problem.

A recent report shows that border enforcement benchmarks from the 2006, 2007, and 2010 Senate bills have been met.  Yet to some meeting those benchmarks isn’t enough, only 100-percent perfect is acceptable.

It is also not attainable.

Only throwing money and resources at the border does not address the broken system. We must demand Congress puts in place clear and reasonable enforcement goals.

Immigrants make up our past, our present, and more importantly will assist in Iowa’s future.  Let’s all move forward together and support reform of the immigration system.

JoAnn Barten

Ames

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