The Longboat Key Democratic Club welcomed immigration attorney Emily Brown to lead a discussion on U.S. immigration issues. The free Zoom event held on July 11 drew a virtual crowd of about 40 people.
Brown began her presentation, titled “State of the U.S. Immigration System” with an overview of the main ways non-U.S. citizens can immigrate to the U.S.
There are an estimated 11 million “undocumented” individuals in the United States, according to Brown. This is the category that is most targeted and talked about by politicians as “problems,” Brown said.
She then discussed the ways in which people can apply for a green card. The most common is family-based immigration. Most of the processes are flawed, said Brown.
“You’ll literally be waiting decades,” Brown said in regards to the long waiting times for green cards.
To back that up, she showed a chart that represented green card wait times for people immigrating from certain countries. One of the highest waits was India, which is 18 years behind according to Brown’s presentation.
“If you file one today, you’ll be waiting at least that long, probably longer,” Brown said.
One of the biggest problems in the immigration system, said Brown, are inadmissibility grounds. Immigration violations could disqualify a person from entering the country legally in the future. Those violations include entry without inspection, or prior removal or reentries.
The next part of Brown’s presentation was about temporary humanitarian protections, including temporary protected status granted due to armed conflict or disaster. This protection states that if an immigrant is already in the U.S., the person won’t be deported if there is an armed conflict or environmental disaster in the immigrant's home country.
Brown then talked about the people who fall through the cracks.
“As I see it, the biggest problem is that we have 11 million undocumented people, and most don’t have a path to a green card,” Brown said.
Brown also covered backlogs for family and employment visas, and restrictive asylum criteria. According to Brown, it’s a problem that the U.S. is letting in fewer refugees now than in the past.
The last segment of Brown’s presentation talked about possible ways to help these issues. In terms of what Congress can do, Brown said enacting laws such as the American DREAM and PROMISE Act and U.S. Citizen Act could be important steps. Everyday people can call and write to members of Congress, and advocate local and state lawmakers to stop anti-immigration legislation.
Brown’s half-hour presentation was followed by a question and answer session.
The Longboat Key Democratic Club’s next event is another free Zoom event on Sept. 5 about gun safety.