Tulsan, Immigrant From South Africa Fears Reforms May Overlook Her Situation

Wednesday, January 30th 2013, 6:33 pm
By: News On 6

There's been a lot of talk this week about immigration reform, after President Barack Obama and a bi-partisan Senate group turned their attention to overhauling the nation's flawed system.

Deborah Skinstad, originally from South Africa, came to the United States on a tennis scholarship in 2004. She has since graduated and fears she may be deported.

"International students, I would think, are the cream of the crop. The draw card is ‘Hey, come to America and pursue education,' but what happens to us once we've graduated?" Skinstad said.

The 30-year-old earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from a local college. Her work visa allows her to teach health fitness classes at the college.

"If someone catches you getting paid elsewhere, the fear of deportation is there," Skinstad said.

An eight-member U.S. Senate group proposed an immigration reform plan this week. It allows a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the United States.

1/26/2013 Related Story: White House, Senators Launching Immigration Push

Since Skinstad was invited to the U.S. on a tennis scholarship, she feels like she doesn't fall into the "illegal" status.

"Do I fall through the cracks? Would I be judged on status or would I be judged on merits, because where I'm standing, just purely my observation, I'm being judged on status, illegal status," she said.

During President Obama's recent speech on immigration reform, he touched on the fact that there are plenty of people in the U.S. like Skinstad. He's calling for a more comprehensive immigration reform that would relieve that fear.

Skinstad still thinks the answer is to place all productive, working immigrants on a fast track to citizenship, and not just the illegal ones.

"I've got many different avenues. I'm qualified, educated. I'm an instructor, as well," Skinstad said. "After 10 years of being here, do you close a door on me or is there a pathway for citizenship for me?"

Skinstad's visa expires in 2015. She said her next step is to speak to her local congressman.