Immigration reform debate has local impact

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- Around the country, protesters are demonstrating against allowing undocumented immigrant children into the U.S. The protests come at a time where pressure is building for congress to reach a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform before the end of the month.

While the protests and debates are happening thousands of miles away from the Chippewa valley, a local lawyer says immigration reform will have big impacts when it comes to our local economy.

“We have to have secure borders and we have to have a lawful way for people to come into the country. Right now the laws are just outdated,” immigration attorney Victoria Seltun said.

Seltun, who practices law in Eau Claire, has helped hundreds of clients find their path to citizenship, but getting it the legal way takes time.

“With the quota system they have to wait 10 to 20 years for their number to become current,” Seltun explained.

Seltun says quotas on green cards that were established back in the 1960's have become outdated, making for long waits to get citizenship and in the end that impacts Wisconsin’s workforce.

She says, “Most of the Visa programs are geared toward temporary workers. So if a dairy farmer has a need to milk cows, then the current immigration system doesn't provide them with the resources they need.”

According to the 2010 census, more than 40% of workers on dairy farms are immigrants. If undocumented workers were taken out of the state studies show we would lose $2.6- billion in our economy and more than 14-thousand jobs.

Back in Washington, the talks of immigration reform continue.

"The administration has been trying to work with Congress to pass an immigration reform bill for over two years,” Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said.

"We will continue the effort, the respectful effort to convince our colleagues in the house that we need to move forward on this issue," Republican Senator John McCain said.

Time is ticking to reach a deal. Congress will have to do it before they leave on their summer break at the end of this month.

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