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Some are overlooked in US immigration overhaul

Last Updated: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 09:59

San Diego: Carlos Gonzalez has lived nearly all his 29 years in a country he considers home but now finds himself on the wrong side of the border and the wrong side of a proposed overhaul of the US immigration system that would grant legal status to millions of people.

Gonzalez was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, from Santa Barbara in December, one of nearly 2 million removals from the United States since Barack Obama was first elected president.

"I have nobody here," said Gonzalez, who serves breakfasts in a Tijuana migrant shelter while nursing a foot that fractured in 10 places when he jumped the border fence in a failed attempt to rejoin his mother, two brothers and extended family in California. "The United States is all I know."

While a Senate bill introduced earlier this month would bring many of the estimated 11 million people living in the US illegally out of the shadows, not everyone would benefit. They include anyone who arrived after December 31, 2011, those with gay partners legally in the US, siblings of US citizens and many deportees such as Gonzalez.

With net immigration from Mexico near zero, the number who came to the US since January 2012 is believed to be relatively small, possibly a few hundred thousand. They include Isaac Jimenez, 45, who paid a smuggler USD 4,800 to guide him across the California desert in August to reunite with his wife and children in Fresno.

"My children are here, everything is here for me," Jimenez said from Fresno. He lived in the US illegally since 1998 and returned voluntarily to southern Mexico last year to see his mother before she died.

So far, advocates on the left have shown limited appetite to fight for expanded coverage as they brace for a tough battle in Congress. Some take aim at other provisions of the sweeping legislation, like a 13-year track to citizenship they consider too long and USD 4.5 billion for increased border security.

"It`s not going to include everybody," said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "It`s not perfect. I think you hear a lot of people saying, `Don`t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,` and this is good."

Peter Nunez, who supports restrictive policies as chairman of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, rates the bill an 8 or 9 on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most inclusive. He criticises a measure that allows deportees without criminal histories to apply for permission to return if they have spouses or children in the US legally, a step that supporters say would reunite families.


First Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 09:59

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