I was named one of the Top Immigration Lawyers in Houston by Houstonia Magazine last October. I have been working in the field of immigration in Houston since 2008. In July 2013, I opened my own law practice provide immigration services to the Houston community and clients across the United States.
With almost nine years of experience working with Houston immigrants, it’s hard to watch politicians discuss how they propose to solve some of the immigration issues our country is facing.
Immigration law is complicated
Small details can make or break cases. Exact dates, specific documents (even ones from other countries), and actions taken decades ago can make a difference in an immigration case. This is why I recommend that anyone with an immigration issue seek one of the top immigration lawyers in Houston to advise and assist them.
But on a policy level, United States immigration laws as currently written do not encourage people who have been in the United States for long periods without authorization to leave, and do not allow many opportunities for undocumented individuals to legalize their status.
Donald Trump’s Position on Immigration
I noted over the last month that Donald Trump pivoted from his original position, that all undocumented people would have to leave the United States with no exceptions, to conceding that it might make sense to allow some people who have been in the United States for long periods of time and who do not have a serious criminal history, to remain in the United States.
When he made this statement in late August, he drew a mixed reaction from his audience. He then re-focused his message on building a wall between Mexico and the United States and ceased to talk about a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants without serious criminal history.
This shift from a more compassionate (and realistic) approach to changing our immigration system back to forcing all undocumented immigrants to leave the U.S. with no exceptions caused Jacob Monty, an immigration lawyer in Houston who had supported Mr. Trump’s campaign, to renounce his support for the candidate.
The Facts About Immigraiton
In all of this back-and-forth about what Mr. Trump might or might not do if he is elected President, I couldn’t help but note that there are a few basic truths that aren’t acknowledged in his statements:
1. In general, entering the country without authorization (or staying beyond the time allowed in the United States) is not a crime. It is considered a civil violation. So if we call people who came to the United States without authorization “criminals,” and exclude “criminals” from any possibility of legalizing their status, we’ve excluded almost everyone from the changes we propose
2. Undocumented immigrants contribute a significant amount of tax revenue to our country. On February 24, 2016, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a report titled Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions which noted that the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States collectively paid $11.64 billion in state and local taxes.
3. We cannot afford to remove all undocumented immigrants from our country, and if we did, our economy and communities would suffer. We know from a February 28, 2016 report by the American Action Forum what we’ve been hearing in reports issued in previous years: removing all undocumented immigrants from the United States and preventing all future unlawful entry would cost between $400 billion and $600 billion and reduce real gross domestic product (GDP) by over $1 trillion.
Do Trump’s Thoughts on Immigration Make Sense?
When I heard that Mr. Trump is speaking in Houston, Texas on September 17, 2016, I had to write something to make these points clear, because the policies he has voiced thus far do not seem to take into account what is feasible for our country and what actually benefits citizens of the United States.
Deporting all undocumented immigrants does not benefit us. We already know that, and we don’t have the resources to do it anyway. Building a wall doesn’t do anything to change the issues with our current laws that discourage or prevent people from obtaining legal status, and there are many such issues with our laws. I could write about for weeks and weeks.
Immigrants Benefit Houston
We have a large population of immigrants in Houston, and it has benefitted us. We have a strong construction industry, and thriving hospitality industry, and a healthy real estate market in which landscaping and renovation companies can play a key role. But these industries depend on undocumented labor. In fact, Time magazine recently reported that Mr. Trump’s construction company had knowingly hired undocumented workers in his construction projects.
Regardless of which candidate you support (or if you are unsure of who to support), it’s important to know that some of the real issues with our immigration laws are not being addressed in the current rhetoric we are hearing. I wrote a piece about this in Just Vibe Houston about some of the issues that may not be acknowledged or addressed in Mr. Trump’s remarks this weekend.
From a Houston, Texas Immigration Attorney to the Houston community as a whole, let’s be sure that the immigration debate focuses on the issues we have and feasible, beneficial solutions.
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