Achieve Act does not achieve reform

A pathway to actual citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be our goal.

by Ronald Dixon

One of the post-election policy issues that President Barack Obama and Congress will need to successfully address will be immigration legislation. With 11.9 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and Latinos being the fastest growing minority in the nation, politicians and citizens have realized that this is a pressing issue.

Recent legislation that attempts to tackle problems in immigration, though, fails to adequately address the rights of the undocumented.

The bill is the Achieve Act, regarded as the Republican version of the DREAM Act, that would grant permanent residency to those who came here as children if they pursue a college education or military service. The bill, passed on party lines in the House, has been denounced by immigration reform activists, for good reasons.

The primary issue of this bill is that it fails to grant full citizenship. This act would essentially allow these immigrants to work here, but they would be barred from actually obtaining citizenship and the myriad benefits that come with it. For example, those who successfully fulfill the Achieve Act requirements would still be barred from student loans and the American social safety net.

Also problematic in the bill is that it does nothing to tackle fundamental issues in our immigration system. When it takes years, even decades, for immigrants to legally move to the U.S., there is obviously a problem.

In the short term, Congress should pass legislation akin to the DREAM Act, which actually forges a path toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pursue college or military service and prevents permanent sub-citizenship. In the long term, however, Congress must reform the immigration system so that anyone willing to become educated and work hard to achieve economic stability should also be treated as an American citizen.