Establish a Track to U.S. Citizenship Program for Undocumented Workers

We started as a nation of immigrants and we will continue to exist for the support of all people, including immigrants, because we acknowledge our equality as well as the nation that no one soul is less than another.

As a current immigration attorney, my heart is broken every day I see my NTA (Notice to Appear) respondent clients, who are trying to fight for a better life of freedom and opportunity here that they can’t find in their country of residence before making the journey to the U.S. It’s understandable because, despite the areas we can do better in as a country, America is still much more of a free country than many others and we can’t take this for granted. It breaks my heart to be defending 16-year old refugees who are pleading for the immigration court judge to grant them asylum because they don’t want to return to their countries and risk being killed or harmed again, something you’d think would be so obvious to grant.

One way we can really get in touch with our humanity is recognizing that those undocumented brothers and sisters who don’t have a major criminal history, and who have been faithfully paying their taxes ($11+ billion a year in state and local taxes), do have a chance of taking part in our American Dream together. We can do this by inviting them to join a newly established Track to U.S. Citizenship program in which the immigration and U.S. naturalization process is streamlined with care and acknowledgment for those who contribute to our system to also get to benefit from our system as well (i.e., in 2010, our undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into Social Security but only received $1 billion in services). That’s what humanity’s about.


Why We Need It

As ICE exists out of the purview of the Department of Justice, it often violates many standard due process and privacy rules that are essential for a democracy like ours. This cannot be condoned any longer when human rights violations are being made in the implementation of it all and through the detaining of these people. With some detention centers having sub-human living conditions and displaying blatant disregard and neglect for these undocumented people, we’re not really being American. If we were being American, we would be immediately closing detention centers and quickly transitioning asylum seekers into an asylum-permanent resident/citizen track program, an issue and action that should not be partisan at all. It’s common sense.

The pressing issue at the border isn’t the sudden influx of immigrants, but rather what we can do on a macro-level to address the refugee situation in Latin America. We can confront this by talking with leaders of the affected countries to see what we can all do, be and work together towards, with the joint goals of establishing peace, justice and humanitarian care for all.


What We Are Fighting For

Once elected, I will work to close the detention centers at the Mexican border and transition those currently being detained to housing, job training and other economic opportunity transition programs. I will advocate for a refugee asylum-seeking track to becoming a U.S. permanent resident or U.S. citizen for those who qualify, while also ensuring that undocumented individuals have access to universal healthcare as well. I will work to reduce the cost of naturalization and increase resources to help people navigate that process more easily. Moreover, when establishing a Track to U.S. Citizenship program for all of our undocumented people, primarily those who’ve been faithfully paying taxes and who have no major crime history, we can also expand protections and naturalization to all undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, regardless of their current age. We can do this while overturning the three- and ten-year re-entry bars, as families should not be separated.

Further, while re-enacting discretionary privilege for certain qualifying cases, we can also fund and authorize vast increases in immigration judges so that we can move through our backlog of asylum seekers and other related cases as well. Additionally, expanding protections for LGBTQIA+ immigrants and asylum seekers who experience discrimination here as well as in their countries of origin is something that needs to be discussed while ensuring that all constitutional protections and due process are made available to undocumented immigrants when it comes to deportation issues.

ICE

ICE must be abolished. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created in 2003, in the same suite of post-9/11 legislation as the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. Its founding was part of an unchecked expansion of executive powers that led to the widespread erosion of Americans’ civil rights. Unlike prior immigration enforcement under the INS, ICE operates outside the scope of the Department of Justice and is unaccountable to our nation’s standards of due process.

Now we see the consequences: young children are being ripped from their parents and kept in detention centers without due process and without accountability to Congress. This is completely unacceptable and inhumane. 

We must abolish ICE and see to it that our undocumented neighbors are treated with the dignity and respect owed to all people, regardless of citizenship status.


What It Will Do

By taking care of those who immigrate and seek refuge in our country, we’re able to practice love, connect with humanity and take action in real time. Altogether, these actions help to unify and strengthen our country, people and economy to thrive even more. In order for our country to thrive, we need to ensure that no one is left behind — otherwise, the whole group ends up falling behind. And that’s the mentality we, as a country, get to take this election cycle in appointing our new Congress. Aren’t you excited?!

My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1984 from South Korea and I know all too well the hardships and discrimination 1st generation and 2nd generation immigrant families encounter. On the flip side, I also acknowledge the many amazing people, policies and communities that led to great achievements and strides, in breathing life into and empowering us, every step of the way as well. And it is this America that we must continue to be, where despite our shortcomings in a racial divide that runs deep to the beginning of our nation’s birth — from the conquest of indigenous lands to institutionalized slavery for centuries — we still rise together, collectively, at the most crucial times, to act as a nation that truly loves its people and all peoples of the world.