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Ohio officials consider immigration law reform

By Amanda Harr
On February 7, 2013

A pressing issue in D.C., the topic of immigration has created a buzz in Butler County.

Dave Ward, director of Constituent Services for Governor Kasich, said the immigration issue is more of a federal issue and there is not much Ohio can do at a state level except enforce current law.

"Our first priority is to secure the border and since we're not a border state like Arizona, we don't have that issue," Ward said.

However, Ward said that Ohio still has an immigration problem. The next priority is to enforce current law, which mandates the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

"I think Sheriff Jones of Butler County is a good example of enforcing current law," Ward said. "Ultimately, it's an enforcement issue."

According to the Butler County Sheriff website, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones takes a firm stance against illegal immigrants. His website is dedicated to tracking down illegal immigrants and asking for the help of Butler county citizens.

Jones could not be reached for comment on this issue. For more information about Jones' call for action about the immigration issue, go to www.butlersheriff.org/illegals.

Ward said it is beneficial to have such an outspoken representative such as Jones doing something about enforcing the law.

"[Jones is] a very outspoken representative; if folks had a sheriff like Jones, it would be helpful with this problem," Ward said.

Ward said some states are not willing to enforce the law regarding immigration, and some mayors are even calling their cities 'sanctuary cities,' safe havens for illegal immigrants.

Yolanda Vazquez, assistant professor of law at the University of Cincinnati, said the term 'illegal' is not used in immigration law. Instead, she said the term 'unauthorized immigrants' is used if these individuals have overstayed their visa or crossed the border illegally.

"When the sheriff talks about people about being an immigrant, who have overstayed their visa, I really question whether he is concerned about visa overstays or about the presumption of the Latino living in the United States," Vazquez said. "Then we get into a racial profiling problem. How do you determine if this person has come into the country illegally?"

According to the 2011 U.S. Census, people with a Hispanic or Latino origin comprise 4.1 percent of the Butler County population, an increase compared to the 1.4 percent in 2000.

The percentage of illegal immigrants, however, is undetermined.

"While both the number of Latinos and undocumented people, who are not all Latino, of course, is relatively low in Butler County compared to the country as a whole, there is a history of tension in this area," Walter Vanderbush, Miami University interim director of Latin American studies, said.

Vanderbush said a good national policy is preferable to the harsh local and state policies that have become apparent over the last several years.

President Barack Obama has been heavily lobbying his immigration reform proposal for about a month.

According to the speech given on comprehensive immigration reform in El Paso, Texas last year, Obama stated that under this reform, there would be a pathway to citizenship, including amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants now living in America. Obama specified that he wants better enforcement of immigration laws, in addition to reforming the legal immigration system.

Vazquez said there are more questions that need to be addressed about the reform, such as the intersection between immigration and criminal law.

"Now people can be deported for pulling someone's hair or jumping a turnstile," Vazquez said. "This, amongst many other issues, has not been addressed at all in the Senate press hearing or in Obama's speech."

According to Vazquez, the reality is that most people who are deported are not deported for serious crimes.

Miami's College Democrats and College Republicans each aligned themselves respectively to the bipartisan Senate that is currently negotiating the reform in Washington D.C.

Baylor Myers, President of the Miami College Republicans, said he understands why people oppose the issue.

"Obama has recklessly disregarded border security in favor of an ambiguous plan for expedited citizenship," he said.

Eden Thompson, communication chair for College Democrats, said her group supports Obama's push for immigration reform.

"We are very optimistic about President Obama's push for reform, as opposed to Romney's campaign trail call for immigrants to 'self-deport,'" she said. "Immigration reform is necessary to give immigrants the opportunity to achieve the American dream."

Vanderbush said he believes it is important to pass immigration reform that includes a reasonable pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people.

Vanderbush said the reform could affect some students, too. He said he believes that one aspect of one of the proposals that seemed to have widespread support included helping international students who get advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math in this country to stay here legally.

"Providing visas to that group of people may be the part of immigration reform that most directly affects some Miami students," Vanderbush said.

According to the Miami University Office of Institutional Research, Hispanic/Latino students made up 3.6 percent of the student body in 2011, gradually increasing each year since its 2 percent in 2006.

While the College Republicans and Democrats had different opinions, there are a few things they both agreed on regarding immigration reform.

Both Myers and Thompson exuded confidence that the bipartisan lawmakers will find success in an effective program, but acknowledge that this may be a long process in order for both sides to negotiate.

According to President Obama's speech about Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas, he said that there is a consensus about fixing what is broken with the immigration system and now it is up to Congress to catch up.

Miami's College Democrats and Republicans also agreed that Miami students need to take this reform seriously.

Myers said he believes the reform will impact students' future and the complexion of the American economy.

"If the millions of illegal immigrants become citizens, that will mean a dramatic increase in individuals able for entitlement programs and for full-time jobs," he said.

Thompson said she thinks Miami students should put themselves in college-aged immigrants' shoes. She said students should consider what it would be like if they were denied their education.

"Is it fair for immigrants who were brought into this country at such a young age to be denied the same opportunities as us?" Thompson said.

Vazquez said it is important for us to remember how we, as Americans, all got here.

"As Obama said, we are all immigrants, Vazquez said. "We don't really know how our families got here. All we can say is we didn't start here, unless you're Native American. So that's something to remember."


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