Local reaction to immigration debate

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SARASOTA - As the topic of immigration takes center stage, more and more people are calling for reform.  Tuesday a house subcommittee discussed the issue. But, as the political debate continues the people who are affected the most by immigration reform say they are stuck in the middle.

"There's a lot of families out there being separated just because they don't have legal status," said U.S citizen Veronica Garcia

Garcia knows first hand the struggle to keep her family in this country.  Her husband over stayed his tourist visa, a crime that could have resulted in jail time and deportation.

"The experience was pretty scary, not knowing if I was going to be able to keep my husband in the United States or have to go back to Mexico," said Garcia.

Garcia's situation isn't isolated. There are millions of illegal immigrants fighting to stay in the county.   Local immigration attorney Victoria Karins says according to current laws, if you came into the country illegally you cannot get legal status, regardless of how many years you've lived here.

"They're really in a stuck position, they don't have an option here, but if they leave, they can be kept out.  So, really our policies almost encourage people to stay here illegally," added Karins.

According to Karins that's because the process of coming into the country legally could take years. "Waiting can be up to 20 years for people from Mexico. There is an employment based options as well, but that still takes a long time.  So when people say they should do it legally, there are very few options to do it legally," said Karins.

The issue has sparked a controversial debate on immigration reform.  One side is calling for tighter boarder regulations and the speedy return of those caught in the country illegally.  While the other side says those who came here illegally should have an opportunity to stay.

"The Republicans and the Democrats are really at odds at whether there should be some permanent path to citizenship and it remains to be seen," said Karins.        

In the meantime, those fighting to keep their family together say they are stuck in the middle.

"I bet they wouldn't like there family be torn apart because someone broke the law to come into the us illegally, all these people come not because they want to come but its their dream to be in the us," said Garcia.