Senators are expected to debate a bi-partisan immigration bill for the next two weeks. Comprehensive immigration legislation would be a major victory for President Bush in his second term, but how would it affect the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S.?
Juan is in the U.S. illegally, but like many immigrants, he has an American dream. He rides his bike to work everyday; he’s a cashier at a wine store in New York City and makes $400 a week - barely enough to take care of his long-time partner, Reina and their two children.
If Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform, Juan would eventually have to return to Mexico and leave his family behind without knowing when he could return.
“It breaks my heart. If I had to go back to Mexico, who is going to take care of my family,” Juan wondered.
If passed, the bill would give millions of illegal immigrants a “path to citizenship.”
Step one: illegal immigrants who arrived before Jan 1, 2007, would have to apply for a Z-Visa. That would allow people like Juan to travel, work and pay taxes.
Step two: sometime within eight years, heads of households would have to go back to their home country - something called the “touch back” provision. They are guaranteed the right to return, but it’s unclear how long it would take.
Step three: each illegal immigrant would have to pay a $5,000.
Finally, step four: immigrants could then and only then, apply for citizenship, but they automatically start the process behind those who started it legally.
“What’s the point of making it so complicated? If we all agree that we need to do it. Let’s make it real, let’s make it efficient and workable, so that people actually sign up for it,” Juan said.
Juan calls the bill a trick and said he won’t go back to Mexico because he’s worried the U.S. government won’t let him back in. His goal is to open a tae-kwon-do studio and fight for a better life for his family in his new called home: the United States.