The problem with Ben Carson's new immigration proposal

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Dr. Ben Carson’s new immigration proposal may sound more sane than Donald Trump’s, which calls for deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., but it’s still disconnected from reality, immigration activists say.

And it comes at a really awkward time.

Carson outlined a plan this week that would let undocumented immigrants stay in the U.S. only if they have a “pristine” record, and only to work, not to become citizens or get any “goodies,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

He announced these plans just as Blanca Borrego, a mother of three in Houston, was making national news for facing a felony charge connected to a routine visit to her gynecologist. If convicted, Borrego would be one of the people not pristine enough to have a job under Carson’s guest worker program.


Earlier this month, Borrego went to see a gynecologist who had been treating her for a painful cyst, her daughter said. But at a new office, staff suspected her ID was fake, and they called the sheriff to report her. After keeping her waiting for hours, the clinic staff called Borrego into the examination room, where sheriff officials were waiting to arrest her.

Borrego came to the U.S. with her family in 2003 from Mexico, according to The Houston Press, which first reported this story. Borrego overstayed her visa, and like the other 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, she is no longer authorized to stay in the U.S. The state of Texas doesn’t allow undocumented immigrants to obtain identification or driver’s licenses, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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She provided the ID to access health care provided through her husband’s health insurance plan.


“Instead of getting the medical attention she needed, the doctor’s office called the police because she’s undocumented. I will never forget seeing my mother led out of the doctor’s office in handcuffs. My family is devastated," Borrego’s daughter America Ruiz wrote in a blog post.

The clinic staff called the sheriff to report Borrego was using a fake ID, but after officers searched her purse they found a false Social Security card. Borrego has been charged with a felony for tampering with government documents—a criminal charge, according to The Texas Observer.


“They based [the charge] on a Social Security card that they found after her arrest, not on the driver’s license that she showed the receptionist…I just find that sequence troubling,” Clarissa Guajardo, the attorney representing Borrego, told the Observer. “They basically went on a fishing expedition to charge her with the worst.”

Multiple calls and emails to the Harris County Sheriff's office went unanswered by time this story was published.


Which brings us back to Carson’s plan to only keep immigrants with pristine records.

Like Carson, a number of candidates have expressed interest in expanding guest worker programs. Jeb Bush has called for guest worker programs that could offer legal status but not citizenship. John Kasich and Chris Christie have also talked about their guest worker proposals.


But any proposal that tries to separate out immigrants with clean records from those without is “completely disconnected from the reality of immigrant communities,” in which people are forced to make impossible choices because of unfair deportation policies, said Tania Unzueta, an organizer with #Not1More, an immigrant rights group.

Studies show people of color are more likely to be stopped by police, an issue highlighted by immigrant rights advocates as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, and more likely to face harsher sentencing in courts.


But in a state that doesn’t extend IDs or driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, Borrego was left with few options but to obtain a fake ID to access the medical care her husband was paying for.

Borrego has been in jail since September 3rd now, close to two weeks. She has no criminal background, but because she went to see her gynecologist she may in fact end up with a criminal record and could face deportation.

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