Following the dream: a look at immigration

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series examining the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 and the Sonoma immigrant experience. Part one is a brief history of a Sonoma immigrant family drawn to the U.S. by the dream of a better life. Part two will tell the story of a family who emigrated from Mexico after being pushed out by working conditions there.

   “I want the president to know that, when he raises a glass of wine, the immigrants are making it … so that he can drink his glass of wine – every day,” said Noe, a grape-picker living in Sonoma after emigrating from Jalisco, Mexico.

This year marks yet another attempt in the ongoing effort to chart a course for immigrants, those who are undocumented as well as lawful permanent residents, or those with green cards. The U.S. Senate has passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, S.744, known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” which promises eventual citizenship for all immigrants in the United States. And soon, the House will begin plans to present its own version.

But citizenship won’t come easily, or without a price. Under the bill, certain “triggers” have to be reached that will delay the pathway to citizenship by at least 13 years.

Congress has been challenged by the complex issue of immigration for decades. Until 1964, U.S. immigration and economic policies were copacetic with the aspirations of many Mexicans. The “bracero” program, established in 1942, legally pulled immigrants in through temporary visas for seasonal agriculture work. But in 1964, the program was abolished, in part because it was thought to be unjustly similar to indentured servitude.

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