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June 26, 2013

S. Asian Community Closely Watches US Immigration Reform Progress

by Kokab Farshori

As U.S. lawmakers debate how to reform the country's immigration system, the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are hoping for an agreement. Among them are undocumented people from South Asia. 

Sadia was the child of a diplomat and came to the United States 14 years ago. But she still is not a legal resident.  She spoke to VOA but insisted her name be changed and her face blurred in our video footage.

“It’s really painful not to have paperwork because, first of all you cannot drive.  You cannot work.  And even if you find work, people who pay you know your situation and they try to take advantage of you,” she said.

Sadia, who works in the mortgage business, does not not fit the stereotype of immigrants who enter the country illegally and look for blue-collar work.

“We have people that come through an employment based system with science and technology and math degrees, skilled workers," said Manar Waheed, who represents a group that advocates for South Asian immigrants.

Experts agree that it's not possible to deport all undocumented immigrants. The immigration reform bill being considered in Congress proposes a process to bring everyone into the system.  On Monday, the Senate approved an amendment to the bill that would strengthen security along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move aimed at increasing chances for congressional passage.

Demetrios Papademetriou of Washington's Migration Policy Institute, supports registration of all the undocumented.

“You allow people to register and make the registration process reasonable enough so that vast, vast, vast majority of them can qualify in the initial stage,” he said.

Registration will also allow the authorities to determine which undocumented workers have no criminal records.  

“I would say that if somebody who has criminal history or felony or they’re doing wrong things," said Sadia. "I don’t think it would be fair to give them the authorization or green card to work here or live here. But the immigration process should be lenient towards those who have been good citizens.”  

Papademetriou says the U.S. needs a better immigration system. 

“You have to have a system that is flexible, that adjusts according to fluctuations and demands in the United States, that creates a clear, legal, safe and orderly pathway for people to come here, that has rules that everyone understands and those rules apply uniformly across the country,” he said.

All eyes are now on the U.S. lawmakers.  The Senate could pass a bill in coming days, though the House of Representatives is not expected to vote on a measure until later this year.