Hello. In the last blog post I wrote about the undocumented immigrant. He or she is the person who is in the United States without proper immigration status. He or she could be a person who was here originally with a legal visa, but when that visa expired they decided to stay. Or it could be someone who “Entered Without Inspection” through the desert or across the river.
In this post I want to consider the reasons that a person would come to the United States illegally.
“Why don’t they just come legally, like my grandparents did?” This is the question I get asked the most, without a doubt. Even people who are sympathetic to the plight of the immigrant do not always know the answer.
Before we tackle the “why don’t they come legally” question, we have to understand the more basic reasons as to “why do they come at all. The vast majority of persons who reside in the USA and are undocumented came for economic reasons. People are being pushed north, towards the United States, by a very difficult economic situation in Mexico. According to the World Bank, 53 percent of Mexico’s population is poor (living on less than $2 per day); while close to 24 percent is extremely poor (living on less than $1 per day). Many would argue that some of this poverty is a direct result of U.S. trade policies, but we’ll discuss that further in future blog posts. At the same time, Mexico’s poor are being pulled north by the promise of a job. In spite of tighter border enforcement techniques, in spite of it being against the law to hire an undocumented person, people do manage to get through the security and find a job. One friend of mine says that we make it as difficult as possible to enter the USA, you have to risk your life in the desert, but if you make it, we reward you with a job! Though you may hear some people saying, “They’re coming to take our jobs away,” the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of jobs that U.S. citizens simply are not willing to take and are therefore filled by undocumented workers.
I believe that it is helpful to ask ourselves, if I happened to be born in Mexico and was working and could not feed my family, or could not find a job, what would I do? Would I consider crossing the border, where wages can be 10-12 times higher than wages in Mexico?
When I lived and worked in El Paso, we would take the groups that visited us for a presentation from the Border Patrol. Over the years, the Border Patrol would say that 10%, maybe up to 18%, of the people they caught had criminal records. I would then always ask, “Does that mean that the rest, 80 to 90% of the people you catch, are simply good, hardworking people coming to look for a job?” And their response was always, “Yes!”
I believe that inside of every human being is a bit of the “divine spark” that compels us to seek life and to seek it in abundance (John 10:10). Certainly all nations have the right to maintain their borders. But borders are not absolute. Borders cannot be used to create and justify situations of injustice. Is it possible to rethink our understanding of borders, so that the needs of all God’s people on all sides of all borders can be satisfied?
So, once a person has made the agonizing decision to leave their family, to leave all t hat they know and love and to head for “El Norte”, the question is, “Why don’t they simply go fill out the correct forms and come to the United States legally?”
First of all, there is no such form. If someone wants to visit the United States for a short period of time, as a tourist or as a student, yes, one does fill out certain forms to see if one qualifies for the visa. But if one wants to move to the United States and work here, one must be sponsored by someone else. A family member or a potential employer has to petition for you, one cannot do this for his or herself.
There are two ways that a person can move to the United States and work. One is to seek a visa under the family reunification system. The other is to enter with an employment based visa.
There are five categories for employment based visas:
1. Priority workers, such as scientists, athletes, researchers, multinational executives and managers, etc.
2. Second preference includes people with advanced degrees, (e.g., architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, or other professionals with any degree above a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent, such as a master’s degree or a doctorate); or individuals of exceptional ability whose work will substantially benefit the U.S. economy, or the cultural or educational interests or welfare of the U.S.
3. Third category includes skilled workers performing a job that requires at least 2 years of training or experience; and professionals performing a job in a field that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent; and other workers performing unskilled jobs (certain unskilled jobs, such as janitors, gas station attendants, taxicab drivers, or truck drivers do not qualify for an employment-based visa; jobs ineligible for visas are listed on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Schedule B)
4. Fourth category includes special immigrants, including religious workers and others.
5. Finally we have the investors willing to invest $1,000,000 (or $500,000 under certain circumstances).
As it states above, for the average person in Mexico, the economically poor person who is “unskilled” but wants to come work as a landscaper, maid, cook, janitor, etc. there is no legal way to come to the United States with an employment based visa.
This leaves the family reunification method. So if you do happen to have an immediate relative, parent, sibling, child, in the United States with legal documents, you can apply. But what happens after one fills out the application.
The current wait time for someone in Mexico can be up to 19 years. If you want to check the details, please Google the words, “visa bulletin” and it will take you to the State Department web site. On the Visa Bulletin page, click on the current month, then scroll down to the chart and you will see that if a US citizen is applying for her or his unmarried children to be able to come to the US, it is currently, as of October, 2012, a 19 year wait. Check it out if you want more details. One of the reasons that there is such a long backlog is that so many people are trying to do it legally. In fact, and I bet you won’t believe this number, there are currently 4,700,000 persons in line, waiting. Others have given up on the line, given up on the legal method and have taken other steps to reunite with their families. If you had to leave your 5-year-old daughter with her grandparents so that you could come work in the U.S., would you wait 19 years to see her again?!
So the answer to the question, “why don’t they come legally” is that for a poor, unskilled person from Mexico, there is practically speaking, NO WAY TO COME LEGALLY! So if we truly want people to come legally, we need to make it possible by changing our immigration laws. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the way to go. We will look at that in the next post.
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