By Nina Mold
Your lead story on Monday, “Families Torn Apart,’’ carried a picture of Alma Rivas, an obviously pregnant mother of four who lives in fear of being deported to her home country, Mexico, because she and her husband are living here illegally.
She says she wants a better life for her children than her own, then goes on to describe the nightmare that her children must endure daily. Alma rises at 4 a.m. and looks for someone to care for her children and get them to school. She and her husband then try to get a ride to work where they toil all day, arriving home after 9 p.m. to feed their children.
The poor woman is worn out at 31 years old. She and her husband are not raising their own children, cannot play with them, do homework with them or spend any quality time with them at all. I fail to see how being farmed out to whomever is available is giving these children a better life.
Alma says she and her husband have stopped driving, not because driving without a license is illegal, but because they fear being caught and deported.
Respect for the laws of the land does not seem to be something these folks will be instilling in their family. They are barely eking out a living, and it’s hard to see how their situation would improve if they were allowed to become citizens.
Apart from no longer having to look over their shoulders all the time, what would change? People in this situation would not suddenly acquire skills that would lead to higher-paid employment, ergo, their living arrangements would not improve and their ability to pay for higher education for their children would not increase. The problems currently experienced by the parents would simply be repeated by their children, only in ever-increasing numbers.
I am not without sympathy for families who constantly fear being separated from their children. In fact, I can relate to them, as I am in a very similar situation. The difference is, I am here legally.
Having sold everything we owned in England to pay for a small business in Naples, my husband and I were granted an E2 visa. We are hard-working, self-supporting, tax-paying people who employ seven U.S. citizens. The E2 visa permits foreign persons to establish businesses in the United States with capital they bring from overseas. There are around 120,000 such businesses currently trading. We have collectively invested around $40 billion, have a turnover of over $50 billion and employ around 650,000 U.S. citizens. Yet, despite our considerable contribution to the economy, we have no path to permanent residency.
The children of E2 visa holders cannot have social security numbers, so they cannot work. They cease to be classed as our dependents at age 21 and must acquire their own visa, or leave the U.S. An E2 visa is out of the question, since they have no work experience (or money!), so that leaves the F1 (foreign student) visa, which requires $30,000 up-front and is beyond the scope of most small business owners. My daughter, Stephanie, will be 21 in March 2010. She is in her junior year at FGCU, just one year away from her degree.
It’s often said that illegal immigrants should go home and come back legally. Well, that’s not the solution because, under current law, people can only immigrate legally through a sponsor – close relative or employer, and most illegal immigrants have neither. They would also be precluded under a points system such as the one used by Australia, because it requires fluent English, specific skills and sufficient funds to support your family.
Clearly, the government is looking at ways to halt the influx of illegal immigrants and to bring those already here ’out of the shadows’. I just hope that, when the laws are changed to allow illegal immigrants to acquire citizenship and prevent their families from being decimated, that they include those of us who are here legally.
For more information, go online to E2Reform.org.