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Area activists cautiously endorse immigration plan

Area activists cautiously endorse immigration plan
Path to citizenship welcomed, but details have not emerged

The following article, written by Federico Martinez, appeared January 29, 2013 in The Toledo Blade. Read below, or view the article on The Blade's website.

Toledo-area immigration advocates Monday cautiously applauded proposed immigration reforms unveiled by a bipartisan group of Senators.

But advocates say more details are needed before the federal plan can be endorsed.

Mark Heller, managing attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality's Migrant Farmworker and Immigration Program, said the reform proposal is good news for many undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.

"I'm pleased they are on a path to citizenship if they are already in the U.S.," Mr. Heller said. "Overall I'm pleased. But it will depend on the details."

Those details will include what steps people will need to complete to obtain citizenship, Mr. Heller said.

If the process is too complicated, he said people will not participate.

The proposed plan also indicates that paths to citizenship will differ for people.

For example, the process is expected to be quicker for skilled laborers, but skilled workers shouldn't automatically mean "college degrees," Mr. Heller said.

"Farm work is not necessarily an entry-level job," said Mr. Heller, referring to migrant farm workers. "It's hard to say who should be favored."

Baldemar Velasquez, president of Toledo-based, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, said it's too early to tell if the proposed reforms are viable.

"There are no details, there are just some principles," Mr. Velasquez said. "The real issue is immigration reform in general and the farm worker issue. It's going to be complicated because you have two issues here."

For example, one proposed reform listed includes establishing an agricultural guest worker program — which would increase the number of migrant laborers coming to the United States, Mr. Velasquez said.

The challenge is to make sure that the workers are not being taken advantage of.

"They won't be able to regulate that," Mr. Velasquez said. "But if workers have the right to mediation and to negotiate, they will be able to address those problems themselves."

The proposal also does not explain how the United States plans to stop the continued flow of illegal immigrants into the country, Mr. Velasquez said.