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Local residents divided on reform plan

Some Springfield, New Carlisle residents favor reform while others oppose easing citizenship path.

Brittny Feagans and Rodney Reeder — both Springfielders — differ on an immigration reform proposal that would give 11 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

Feagans, 30, said she favors allowing undocumented workers a chance to become U.S. citizens, while Reeder, 38, opposes the plan and said they broke the law coming to the country illegally.

“I don’t see (anything) wrong with it. People come over here from other countries for a better life because they don’t have the same opportunities that we have,” Feagans said.

Reeder believes federal agents should step up enforcement on illegal immigration.

“It’s not about being racist. It’s about right or wrong. I don’t ever get a free pass and I don’t think anybody else should get a free pass,” he said.

Eight senators – four Republican and four Democrats — unveiled proposals Monday to secure the border, allow more guest workers, require tougher verification measures by employers and create a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

The senators pledged to get the sweeping bill through the Senate by the summer, though numerous past efforts have failed.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, serves on the House’s immigration subcommittee and is against the plan.

“When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” he said. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

Jessica A. Ramos, a lawyer for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Dayton, cited studies, though, that show immigrants create jobs, have a higher rate of entrepreneurship and are more likely to start and be successful business owners.

The new system for verifying employees may be helpful to local business owners, said Peter Scarff, president of Scarff’s Nursery in New Carlisle.

Scarff has used E-Verify, the federal government’s system to check if an employee’s information is valid, for several years.

“It’s not a very reliable system,” Scarff said. “It’s got a lot of flaws and it definitely needs overhauled. I don’t know how it could be overhauled but it needs to be more accurate.”

For example, the e-Verify system will tell an employer if the name and Social Security number on the provided identification match but it doesn’t confirm that it matches the person presenting the ID, said Scarff, who runs all employees through the system.

Immigration reform could be a benefit for his nursery, Scarff said.

“If the whole package goes through, the comprehensive reform, it’ll help everybody, especially in agriculture, but in all industries across the country, too,” he said.

Andrew Wright, pastor of New Carlisle Church of the Brethren, legally immigrated from England in 1980 and became a U.S. citizen in 2011.

He took a mixed view on the reforms.

“If they’re law-abiding people and they have helped the society and they have worked hard and really desire a better life, then I would say yes, let’s see what we can do to bring them in to citizenship,” Wright said. “I don’t think it ought to be just a free and clear road.”

Pastor Irvin Heishman of Cristo Nuestra Paz Church of the Brethren in New Carlisle said current immigration laws make it difficult for the families of illegal immigrants.

“It prevents families from being able to get their lives well established. It forces people to find other ways to cope,” Heishman said.

Heishman said he knows of families in which one spouse is in the country illegally and it’s difficult for the wives, for example, to find work, take their children to appointments and to school.

“If people could have the means to get a driver’s license and insurance and employment they could lead better lives,” Heishman said.

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