Plenty of opinions on fixing the nation’s broken immigration system

Most agree that the nation’s immigration system is broken, but there’s no agreement on fixing it.

This week, the debate over immigration reform emerged once again. President Barack Obama outlined his plan on a visit to Nevada on Tuesday. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, outlined their plan. Both similar, but one key difference is the time it takes for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to become legal U.S. residents and, eventually, U.S. citizens.

Obama’s plan would allow undocumented immigrants to receive work permits and, presumably, quickly begin the process of applying for permanent legal U.S. residency — more commonly known as a green card. The Senate proposal would put undocumented immigrants in line with everyone else trying to get into country, a process that could take decades to complete.

There is no specific bill on the table, but Obama and top Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle say they want to a bill passed by summer’s end.

The Miami Herald sought the opinions of members of HeraldSource by asking whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to get on a path to citizenship and what requirements would have to be met to qualify.

The group is part of the popular Public Insight Network and helps The Herald explore timely issues in the news. Here’s a sampling of the comments:

Kirsten Llama, of Miami:

“Yes. As long as they do not commit crimes and make an effort to learn English. They are here. We need them. They take jobs many natives will not take. They will pay their fair share of taxes as citizens. If they serve in the military or work in humanitarian jobs, such as medical and education, they should be given a faster path [to citizenship]. Insist they go home for half a year before they reapply to return. If they do not fulfill their jobs, they should be sent home.

Ed Wujciak, of Hollywood:

Yes. The presence of “second-class residents,” which is what undocumented immigrants are, creates great strains in our society. These people are vulnerable, afraid, and powerless to participate in the society they live in. They are here because the U.S. government has had a “see no evil” attitude toward them. They were allowed to come and stay because they work cheap and boost corporate profits, but they are powerless to improve their situation. In other words, they’re perfect employees. Plus, their presence in such great numbers puts great downward pressure on the wages and working conditions of everyone else. Our policy toward these people has been dishonest and exploitative. Our policies acted as an unspoken invitation and we owe them the dignity of legal status.

Fred San Millan, of Miami:

No. It will open a floodgate and more people will invade the United States, creating a real social calamity that will definitely affect this country forever on all fronts, social and economic. I would keep the same rules of a balanced quota for each country, and register the illegal in this country without persecuting them, however. [I suggest] a nationwide referendum for this immigration problem.

Ed Gugliotta, of Miami Beach:

No. Not before all the others that are legally in line waiting for their chance, such as family members, professional workers [H1B or O visas, investors E1, L1] visas, who have been in the country for many years, abiding by the law, paying taxes, investing and waiting patiently their so slow process to obtain at least a green card. Ease the process of obtaining the Green Card for family members and workers that have shown good faith and honest intention on becoming valuable and productive residents, Undocumented immigrants can then follow the legal path to citizenship. Secure the borders so no more illegals can access the American soil, and undocumented already here (although they are technically felons) must learn the language, have a local resident or citizen as sponsor, no criminal background, and some kind of skill useful for the nation. Then they could obtain some kind of parole permit that would allow them to stay, have a job, get a driver’s license, pay taxes and a two-year test period before accessing a special, say, blue card that would allow them to stay for 5 years, and subsequently, if accepted, request the green card.

Sergio R. Bustos is The Miami Herald’s politics and state government editor. He can be reached at sbustos@MiamiHerald.com. Public Insight Journalism Analyst Stefania Ferro can be reached at sferro@ MiamiHerald.com. Sign up for the Public Insight Network by going to MiamiHerald.com/Insight.