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Local division on immigration


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Published on: Thursday, February 21, 2013

By Tazeen Ahmad

A draft immigration bill, circulated by the White House this past weekend, gives undocumented immigrants in Montgomery County reason to cheer and provides a good insight to President Obama’s vision for immigration reform.  The bill gives specific guidelines that would put 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. on the pathway to citizenship.   

The proposal requires illegal immigrants to go to the back of the line behind legal applicants and would grant permanent resident status either eight years after the bill is enacted or 30 days after visas have been given to all those who applied legally, whichever comes first.

For illegal immigrants living in Montgomery County the national focus on immigration reform is welcomed and long awaited, though support has been there at the county level.  Last November, Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to award CASA de Maryland, Inc. (CASA), a non-competitive contract for $100,000, in taxpayer funds, to provide undocumented immigrants application assistance if they qualified for the Obama administration’s executive amnesty program.  

County Executive Isiah Leggett, in a letter to Montgomery County Council  on October 12, 2012,  said, “This appropriation will fund Deferred Action in Montgomery County, a temporary two-year relief from deportation that may be accompanied by a work permit if the student shows that they need one.”

Leggett went on to say that CASA is uniquely positioned to serve the large number of youth needing assistance…. They already have in place much of the infrastructure and staffing and the county funds are expected to leverage significant dollars from other sources.

“The focus, right now, needs to be on citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.  Any reform must be based on the principle that people who have lived here, raised families here and worked hard and contributed to our economy must have a path to citizenship, Kim Propeack, the political director at CASA said.

Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, opposes the proposed immigration reform.  “It tramples on the rule of law and is unfair to those people who have followed the law and gone through the steps for legal immigration,” Botwin said.

“This should certainly not be the top issue.  We have 22 million fellow Americans out of work, let’s get them employed first, “Botwin said.

Propeack, dismisses Botwin’s claim.  Propeack said that “we are all complicit in a system of undocumented labor in this country; we have been enormous beneficiaries of the system.”

Propeack points out that the vast majority of undocumented people in this country have come here to work and they have come to work for somebody, “there is an employer at the other end of this relationship.”

David O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Painting Service, Inc. in Gaithersburg, admits that there are business owners that are ready and willing to hire illegal workers.  O’Connor said it is hard for him to compete with companies that hire workers that are not legal or use subcontractors that hire illegal workers.  “We lose a lot of jobs to them,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor concedes that he does not oppose efforts to legalizing all the undocumented immigrants. “I can’t say I’m against it as long as everybody in on the same playing field,” O’Connor said.  He said “with Obama legalizing 11 million people they will be finally paying into our tax base which will help all around.”

“The problem is that undocumented workers are paying enormous amount of taxes with through false social security numbers or by individual tax identification numbers but the money doesn’t go to the localities which are bearing the costs,” Propeack said.  

Propeack said that this could change once the legal status has been granted to the undocumented immigrants which would allow the taxes they pay to flow to their respective counties and help support the infrastructure they are already using.

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