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Immigration reform interlaced with U.S. job market

The immigration issue, as many California residents know, is hotly debated. From the surge in children crossing the border from Central America to the immigration bills being debated in Congress, it is an area that is vastly complex. At the heart of the issue is the use of immigrants to fill both high-tech and low-wage jobs in this country.

Domestic companies are filling low-wage jobs in the U.S. with workers from other countries. Low-paying jobs such as health care aides and domestics use foreign workers to do work American workers generally do not want to do. The W-visas would allow immigrants to work in this country when a high number of vacancies in a job sector arise. Those workers could apply for permanent residency.

Immigration officials ignore Trust Act violation

Reliance upon inaccurate information in a computer database appears to be the cause of a violation by Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies of California's Trust Act. Under the law that went into effect in January, law enforcement agencies in the state cannot hold a person in custody on just a detainer request from U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement except under specific circumstances enumerated in the statute.

According to the sheriff's department, Santa Ana police detained a 25-year-old man on an outstanding warrant and held in the local jail. Deputies from the sheriff's department reviewed the man's criminal record and immigration status. The man's record apparently showed a prior conviction for a crime for which the Trust Act authorized holding him for deportation. Although the conviction information subsequently proved to be incorrect, the man had already been turned over to immigration officials to be held under threat of deportation.

Service members granted citizenship at White House ceremony

As many Californians already know, President Obama welcomed 25 service members and their spouses to a White House ceremony where they were sworn in as citizens on July 4. Acknowledging that some of the new citizens joined the armed forces as a duty they welcomed before they were granted the privilege of citizenship, the President said America has always been a country of immigrants tied together by common beliefs. This, he said, is our heritage, and out of diversity comes strength.

All told, in that week 9,000 individuals were granted citizenship nationwide. Some new citizens shared their experiences along the way to becoming citizens. One woman, who immigrated from Egypt in 1981 and joined her husband here, built a life and a family in this country. On July 4, she described her emotions after becoming a citizen by saying she feels free and proud. While in this country on a visa, she had to abide by specific rules when she visited relatives in her native country. Now she was free of such limitations. Yet, she noted with children and grandchildren in the U.S., this is her home.

Immigrants to be sent to California to ease burden elsewhere

It has been reported that 140 illegal immigrants are being shipped from Texas to California before being released to friends and family members or being told to report to an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office within 15 days to start the deportation process. Many of those who are being flown to a Border Patrol station near San Diego are part of a large number of Central Americans who have crossed the border in recent weeks. The plan is to have about 140 immigrants processed at a Border Patrol station in Murrieta starting on July 1, and the process may be repeated every 72 hours for a number of weeks. According to officials, the reason why immigrants have been sent to California to potentially be released to relatives or friends is because there are too many people to be held in Texas where many have crossed the border at the Rio Grande Valley. The mayor of Murrieta claims that this is spreading community resources too thin and that requiring them to do so is a failure to enforce federal law. The speaker of the House of Representatives has said that there will be no immigration reform bill anytime soon that many had hoped would help solve crises such as this one. President Obama has said that he will move more resources to the border from the interior of the country. Those who reach the United States without documentation may be sent back to their home country soon after arrival. However, it may be possible to petition the government for temporary or permanent residency if an individual knows someone in the country or asks for political asylum. Immigration attorneys may make it easier for anyone in the country illegally to obtain some sort of legal residency status.

Minimum wage hike could affect farmers, immigrant workers' wages

Orange County residents may be interested in details about the new minimum wage law and how it may affect farmers and immigrant workers. With many farm workers already above the minimum wage, the increase may still spell financial trouble for farmers.

In 2013, the California assembly passed a law that mandated a minimum wage of $9 an hour beginning on July 1, 2014. In 2016, the minimum wage will raise again to $10 an hour. One agricultural economics professor says that this minimum wage hike will have an effect on the wage structure of agricultural workers, even on those who are already making above the minimum wage. This is because there is a pre-existing hierarchy for wages, and those with more experience may expect their wages to rise in order to retain that existing structure.

The cost is high for denying immigrants medical care

While many California communities offer have offered healthcare access to immigrants, there are still a number of communities where immigrants have no available medical care. For example, the city of Sacramento cut healthcare to undocumented immigrants in 2009.

One family of immigrants survives by performing farm work. They have to treat themselves concerning ailments because they have no health coverage. A younger brother injured his back a few years and the problem has remained untreated. The 40-year-old father also injured his back and this forced him to at least temporarily stop working. It appears they did have health care at one point, but this coverage later ended.

Immigrants in detention centers working for little no money

While wondering whether Congress will ever vote on immigration reform, thousands of immigrants are being held in detention centers across the nation while sometimes being paid as little as a dollar a day for work they perform.

There are business executives from companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola who would like to see immigration reform go forward. There is a shortage of individuals willing to take on a number of low-skill occupations that are available and they believe that our immigrant population can fill that need.

Immigrant children without parents costs U.S. millions

California and two other states operate shelter programs designed for unaccompanied minors who have immigrated to the United States. These shelters are contracted by the federal government. The shelters are available for these children 24 hours a day and are designed to support the children for the entire time that they stay there. Sometimes the children stay there for three or four months until families or sponsors for the children can be located.

The legal process for determining what to do with these children can sometimes last years. The immigration proceedings are often complex and involve agencies with differing agendas. As one can imagine, the cost of care for these children is enormous. The unaccompanied minors program will cost $868 million in 2014. Ignoring this problem would place these children at enormous risk of human trafficking and exploitation.

Proposed California DREAM program may benefit immigrant students

A proposal has made its way through the California legislature intended to assist young people who are not yet citizens to receive a college education. Known as the California DREAM loan program, the aim of the bill is to provide financial assistance to such young people who wish to study at certain California colleges.

Those immigrants eligible for such financing would have to be considered of good moral character, have graduated from a United States high school and have entered the U.S. as minors. Beneficiaries will also be required to have lived continuously in the U.S. for a specified period of time. A similar DREAM Act was proposed in Congress, but that bill has stalled. 

Prosecutorial discretion and deportation concerns

While promises have been made to reform deportation policies in the United States, it appears that the Department of Justice is aggressively prosecuting immigrants. These prosecutions may prevent approximately 4,000 fewer immigrants from seeking any protection from deportation.

The majority of the prosecutions are for what is called "illegal reentry." This appears to indicate that tremendous resources are being utilized against these individuals who are often only wishing to be reunited with their families. These individuals are facing prosecution while more serious crimes are not being addressed. It has been suggested that this is the case because the reentry cases are easier for the prosecutors to win.