Immigration has been a major political issue for the past few decades, but was very much used as a leading campaign theme by former President Donald Trump in the runup to the 2016 election.
Very little is being heard from undocumented immigrants themselves, why they come to the U.S., what they would like to see happen and more. Laz Ayala, Founder of Illegal The Project and a former undocumented immigrant who has since gained citizenship joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss this issue and some potential ways to solve it.
Progress on immigration reform
When Ayala came to the U.S., he was fortunate enough to go to school and receive an education, learn english and eventually go on to college. He had to forgo his college education due to his legal status, leading him to real estate and later construction development. While the process for becoming a U.S. citizen can take years and even decades, Ayala married a U.S. citizen and gained his citizenship.
After studying the issue for a number of decades, Ayala has concluded that he hears the same things he did 30 years ago. The same messaging of comprehensive immigration reform is not inspiring and gives little hope the problem will truly be addressed.
The issue needs to be tackled in pieces according to Ayala, not all at once. Washington D.C. is a tough place to get people to agree on little things, let alone an all-encompassing immigration reform plan.
He said the reason people keep coming to the U.S. is because there is work here, but not where they are coming from. This is where the government needs to start, addressing the labor shortage in industries such as agriculture and construction, where many Americans prefer not to work.
Addressing immigration reform
Ayala returned to his initial point of breaking immigration reform into pieces. He said there are already millions of undocumented people living in the U.S. who are seeking citizenship, some have lived here for decades and have children and grandchildren.
He then moved on to addressing the massive flow at the southern border, saying many of these people don’t intend to settle in the U.S., but instead come for seasonal work. Ayala would like to see a system developed to study job markets in need of labor and allow a certain amount of qualified immigrants to come to the U.S. for work and then return in the off season.
Another aspect is enforcing penalties on employers who violate labor laws and treat undocumented workers poorly. If there was no demand for work, Ayala said people would not come to the U.S.