For some NU students, the immigration issue hits close to home

    Communication sophomore Tina Umanskiy is like many Northwestern students. She takes the same classes, works hard to earn her degree and invests her time in many organizations, including NU Wildside and Homecoming. With her brown hair and Midwestern accent, she appears like the typical Northwestern student, embarking on a path to a successful future.

    Looking at her, no one would know that she is the child of two Russians who immigrated to give their children these opportunities.

    Umanskiy's mom was six months pregnant with Tina when she and her husband boarded a plane to the U.S., hoping to find religious freedom and economic prosperity. The couple withdrew from medical school in order to travel to America.

    On the other hand, Weinberg sophomore Delia Privitera immigrated with her parents from Italy when she was 16 because of her father's job, a process that simplified her famiy's journey to the U.S.

    Both of these students have been affected by America's imperfect immigration process in different ways. Although President Obama has talked about reforming America's immigration policies, Congress has only recently started acting towards this goal.

    The Senate recently formed a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" - a group of senators with seniority and clout - that is working to create immigration reform, particularly for undocumented workers. America currently hosts 11 million undocumented men, women and children.  

    To combat this problem, the Senate proposed a 13-year process to citizenship for undocumented workers: 10 to obtain a green card and another three to obtain citizenship.

    This plan is expected to be released in detail in the next couple of weeks. Additionally, a House "Gang of Eight" is also working towards a bill to reform immigration.

    Privitera's immigration was easier because her father was offered a job with the University of Chicago. He quickly got a work visa and the family immigrated to the U.S. However, not all families are able to get visas this quickly, and the wait can take many years. Umanskiy feels that the immigration process to the United States should be simplified.

    "I want it to not be a headache to get my family here," Umanskiy said.

    Although several of Umanskiy's family members have immigrated to America, she still has some relatives who want to immigrate but are facing difficulties with the lengthy immigration process.

    When Umanskiy's parents immigrated, Russia's policy was that a family member had to already be in the U.S. After waiting three years for a visa, they were able to come here, get green cards and eventually become citizens.

    Privitera and her family members are not citizens in the U.S., but are living here on green cards. The family got their green cards after living in Chicago for two years.

    The time it takes to obtain a green card varies from as short as six months to as long as 20 years, depending on individual circumstances.

    "For a lot of people, getting a green card is a lottery system," Privitera said.

    The green card lottery is a system through which potential immigrants can apply for permanent residency in America. 50,000 green cards per year are authorized through this process. After getting a green card, immigrants must wait five years before being eligible to apply for citizenship.

    Privitera is half Italian and half Spanish, and holds citizenship in both these countries. However, the U.S. only allows its citizens to have one other citizenship in a different country.

    "I would have to choose between Italian and Spanish, but I definitely would want to get a citizenship here," Privitera said.

    Umanskiy would like to see immigration reform that includes fewer technicalities. In her opinion, stricter laws encourage people to break them and lead to more illegal immigrants. For example, Umanskiy cited that legal restrictions on alcohol or marijuana encourage minors to break these laws. Likewise, she believes that having strict immigration regulations leads more people to immigrate illegally and leads to problems in the United States with undocumented citizens.

    "America's a place that should have a lot of diversity and culture, so I think immigration should be easier," Umanskiy said. 


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