Local Reaction to Immigration Bill

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Federal lawmakers are moving forward with a deal reached Thursday with the White House, on an immigration reform package. But KOLO 8’s coverage of that story and our KOLO 8 Web Poll results from Thursday night prompted a lot more local response on Friday. We expected a lot of reaction and we got it. This may be a preview of the national debate we're going to have as Congress tackles this issue once again.

The fate of the millions of illegal immigrants already here has always been a major sticking point in the search for a solution. This proposal would allow those who step forward to stay with a renewable visa and after they paid a $5,000 fine and other fees would open a path to permanent legal status: a path that could take 8 to 13 years.

That proposal is already under attack from those who say it's too punitive and those who call it amnesty.

We asked just that question in Thursday's KOLO 8 Web Poll: "Do you think the Immigration Reform Bill, amounts to amnesty for illegal aliens?"

These were the responses: 85-Percent said Yes, and 15-Percent said No.

That majority view was reflected in comments like this from Jerry Toler, who wrote “This is not immigration reform. This is just one more in a series of ‘reforms’ which results in rewards for people who break our laws."

And this comment from Yvonne Johnson: “This all was a sneaky trick that is going to cost a lot."

But there was also this from Rick Millsap: “If circumstances had been different and I needed to create a future for my children, crossing the border would be one of the only ways out."

Our reaction story on Friday included an interview with an undocumented Reno resident who has been here for almost 20 years. “David” has a job, a house and is raising a family.

“I'm in the system, I just have no documents,” David says. “I have a social security number. I pay my taxes.”

That comment raised the question: How did he get a Social Security number? We checked. David's card has "Not for Work" stamped on it. Such cards are rare today, but back in 1988 they were commonly issued to people with legal visas. They were required then for many schools, driver's licenses and bank accounts. Those requirements have mostly disappeared and with them, the “Not for Work” cards.

David entered the United States as a teenager with a legal visa, got his card for an ID while he was still legal and then, as he admits, simply stayed after his visa expired. He's been using the number ever since.

Another question is, since David says he’s been paying into the Social Security System for years now, will he be able to get some of those benefits out?

He'd like to, naturally. Of course, he'd also like to have a permanent legal status and become a citizen. With that unresolved, it's not clear if he could and he's not alone. It's estimated illegal immigrants pay $7 billion a year into Social Security.

At present, it's making the bottom line of that program look healthier than it may really be.

Ed Pearce, KOLO 8 News Now