Ky. Voices: We make it hard for immigrants to be citizens

Glen Krebs is a Lexington attorney who practices international and immigration law.
Glen Krebs is a Lexington attorney who practices international and immigration law.

Far too often, foreign-born residents of the United States have become pawns in a political game of chess.

In every discussion in regard to current and future immigration policies, there is rarely concern given to their needs.

Immigrants are people who have taken great risk to come here in search of a better life. They want their children and grandchildren to be afforded opportunities that they never had. They simply want the same thing as you and me — to live the American dream just as our ancestors once did.

This is why they leave their friends and family, oftentimes put their lives in danger to move to our great country.

Unfortunately, the stigma attached to immigrants is harsh, unfair and completely outside the realm of the American spirit.

Ours is a nation that was founded in pursuit of greater opportunity and the possibility of a better tomorrow. But the attitude toward immigrants today has strayed far from these founding principles.

Our current immigration system makes it far too difficult for foreign-born immigrants to come to the U.S. We force immigrants to wait years to even obtain a visa or green card and, in most cases, over a decade to become actual citizens.

These are people who attend our churches and volunteer at our schools and in our communities. These immigrants want to be in the U.S. and be productive taxpaying citizens.

They have much to offer our communities and we have much to gain from their presence. We need to recognize them as assets to our communities and stop viewing them as a burden.

The fact is, immigrants provide an irreplaceable value not only to our culture, but to our economy. They are an underutilized resource that can greatly benefit our economic system.

Currently, only 7 percent of all visas given in the U.S. are for employment reasons, meaning that even if there are jobs available, it is still next to impossible to obtain a visa.

Not only is our immigration system unfair to the immigrants waiting in line to come to the United States, but it is unfair to the many business owners and employers looking for dependable workers from every level of skill whether scientists and engineers or low-skilled manual laborers.

There is not a single facet of American life for which the current immigration system is working. It is time to stop using immigrants and their families as political pawns and it is time to finally fix the system so it works for everyone.

I encourage Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to stay involved in the bipartisan discussions happening in Washington. Kentucky is fortunate to have two strong leaders in the Senate and I urge them to keep up the fight for reform.