Chasing the American dream: The ‘right’ view on DACA |

Chasing the American dream: The ‘right’ view on DACA

Helen Raleigh understands immigration and has overcome many of the hurdles those coming to the United States face.

She was born and raised in communist China and came to the United States in 1996 as a student with less than $100 in her pocket. She has worked as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant and  also worked for several fortune 500 companies. She's written three books including,"The Broken Welcome Mat," which addresses the issues she has with the U.S. immigration system, and presents ideas that she believes will improve the system.

Raleigh who lived in the Denver metropolitan area, is the owner of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC a Colorado Registered Investment Advisory Firm, and an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado  She is a familiar face in Steamboat Springs and has been a featured speaker for the Steamboat Institute on several occasions.

"I feel a great deal of sympathy with the illegal immigration population," she said. "My own experience took me 17 years to become a legal naturalized citizen, and I understand for many people that is a tremendously long and complex process. Many people neither have the financial means or have the endurance, persistence to continue the process.

"The reason it took so long is that we have insanely complex laws with many broken areas, Raleigh explained. "It does not offer incentives for many people to comply to follow the law. The issue is squarely laid at the foot of congress."

Because of her journey through America's broken immigration system, Raleigh has developed a passionate opinion on many topics — including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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"DACA is never the right solution for this particular group of people," Raleigh said. "It's very temporary. It is temporary in nature, it only offers a two-year relief. The D in DACA stands for "deferred" deportation, so it was never, even when this program was announced, it was never meant to be a permanent solution."

Because of that, she believes that the Trump Administration's decision to suspend the program, which was created in June of 2012 when Obama signed an executive order, was correct.

"We learned in civic lessons that executive branch does not make laws," Raleigh said. "Laws lay with the legislator, so the legislator should make immigration laws or if those laws are broken, they should be the ones that make changes. That's how our democratic process works, and I would agree with all the other immigrants that Congress so far has failed their responsibilities, and now basically, we are forced into having to do something."

But she is also skeptical that Congress will have the political fortitude to do what she believes is right.

"When it comes to Congress, I do not feel comfortable at all," Raleigh said. "Because number one they have not done anything about immigration for a long time. To me, there is a clear lack of political will to do anything right.

"Secondly, based on what I hear, to me, Congress, just like the rest of the country, they're too extreme for action. On one hand you have the very conservative ones, as are presented by Tom Cotton, who basically do not want any meaningful solution for the DACA, and on the other hand, you have Lindsey Graham,who I hear is working on a bill that is going to the same old formula that offers a special path to citizenship." But I'm afraid in the end, Congress is not going to adopt a very reasonable solution," Raleigh said. "I'm actually really worried about what they are going to do."

In Raleigh's plan, Congress would grant student visas to the immigrants currently going to school. The length of the visa should match the years remaining for them to get their degree. She also believes that Congress should grant work visas to immigrants in DACA who have jobs but not a criminal record. Once again, the length of the visa should match their employment contract or a minimum of five years.

These visas should not be a path to permanent residency and would be designed to let those immigrants continue following the path they are on without interruption. If they want to become permanent residents of the United States, Raleigh said they should follow the paths that 30 million legal immigrants have adhered to for years through existing legal channels.

"DACA is part of a much bigger problem. It's like trying to put a bandaid on a much bigger wound. We have to address the wound and not just put a bandage on it," Raleigh said. "Our immigration law was designed to focus on the family reunion and that is the cause of all this problem. Just because the law is complex does not mean you have an excuse to say, 'I'm just not going to obey it'. We have a process in this country that if you don't like the law we elect representatives and send them to Congress to change things."

Republican Chuck McConnell agrees with Raleigh on many points but is optimistic Congress will get it right on DACA this time.

"I think President Trump did exactly the right thing by putting a limit, a term limit if you will, on DACA," McConnell said. "Here is the reason, this has bothered a lot of people on the left and the right … Congress whose responsibility it is to make laws regarding the kind of things that are at discussion with DACA has ducked the responsibility through about three different presidents – Republican and Democrat- and through majorities in Congress of both parties. I think that is irresponsible and think it has been damaging. In my view, he (Trump) said to Congress, 'Hey you guys, we've got Republicans that want to have the DACA folks not be under threat of deportation and we have Democrats who think that. So why don't you guys get together, determine that portion of the immigration law and bring it to my desk and let me sign it and let's make this thing legal.'"

McConnell said his views on the DACA program are pretty centrist. There are things he doesn't like, but he thinks Congress can come up with a solution that is fair, and reasonable.

"I don’t believe necessarily, right now believe that this (DACA) should lead to a path for citizenship, automatically," he said. "But if DACA people go through the process, and I think that they would qualify very readily for going through the process, that they should be welcomed as citizen as they go through whatever the immigration policy is."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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