Doing it legally: Immigration not as easy as it looks

Immigration Reformer

In her Daily News letter of Jan 18th, fellow Brit Mabel L. Polson tells the simple and straightforward story of her family’s journey to American citizenship. This involved some paperwork, financial and background checks, a medical, a couple of interviews and fingerprinting. Her husband was required to secure a job with an American company that was prepared to sponsor him. Thanks to whatever special skills he has, which no available American citizen possesses, the family was able to obtain green cards (permanent residency) and, ultimately, citizenship.

Ms. Polson goes on to express her rage at illegal immigrants, especially the students who were brought here as children, were educated here and are now seeking a way to remain here and use their education to contribute to the economy of the United States.

“Why”, Ms. Polson asks, “are they not asking their parents to become citizens so that they could also become citizens, just like we did for our daughter”?

It's an understatement to say I'm stunned that anyone could ask such a breathtakingly naïve question, but I’d like to answer it, if only so people understand that legal immigration to the U.S. is an impossibility for the vast majority of people wishing to live here. The path taken by the Polson family is available to only a tiny fraction of would-be immigrants. Most who have entered illegally, or overstayed visas, have little education and no special skills. Therefore, if they have no close relatives here, they cannot obtain sponsorship.

My family, like the Polsons, decided seven years ago that we wanted to live in America. I had spent twenty years as a corrections officer but, to do that here, one must be a citizen. My husband sold engineering equipment for a living – no shortage of sales reps in America so, no sponsorship for him. Our only option was to sell everything we had and buy a small business on an E2 visa. However, even though we employ U.S. citizens and pay taxes, we will never be eligible, under current laws, for citizenship. Our visa must constantly be renewed and we must leave if we retire or sell the business.

My family is grateful for the opportunity to live and work here, and we’re actively involved in a campaign to reform the law so that foreigners who invest here and create jobs will one day have a path to citizenship. It’s odd that, in this time of high unemployment, more isn’t being done to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to start or buy businesses here but, hopefully, reform will come soon and contribute to economic recovery.

The plight of young people brought here illegally by their parents, who have grown up believing this to be their home and who are educated and motivated, is heartbreaking. They are, quite literally, without a country, and this administration will come under increasing pressure to come up with a solution as their numbers grow.

It’s vital that people understand the issues and how urgent immigration reform is. For Ms. Polson, whose path to citizenship was relatively simple, to arrogantly suggest that young illegal immigrants “ask their parents to become citizens” only leads to more misunderstanding. If it were that simple, America would not have an illegal immigration problem in the first place. Furthermore, if 12 million plus jobs were availble, America wouldn't have an unemployment problem, either.

Along with those who say: “My grandparents came here legally, why can’t these people do the same”? or: “Why don’t they all go home and come back legally”? Ms. Polson is not aware of how immigration laws work, how fortunate her family is, or how the majority of others who also long for the American Dream face insurmountable obstacles in their quest.

One day America will catch up with the rest of the developed world and realize that having a sponsor does not guarantee that one will be a good citizen. A points system, like the one used in Australia where, if you don’t speak English, you don’t get in, would be a step in the right direction. In the meantime, a little compassion and understanding would be nice.

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