“They’re leaving for a reason.”
When I interviewed my mother, who has her own immigration law practice, this is the phrase that stuck with me, mostly because it was the most repeated phrase in our conversation. Undocumented immigrants are not here to steal our jobs and avoid paying taxes; they are here for a reason. And there are all kinds of reasons; some are escaping violence and danger back home, and others are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in America.
People love to talk about the American dream, but do not seem to like it when others try to obtain it. We’ve seen this through the anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric that has been blazing through the minds of many Americans for years, and have been recently brought to the mainstream by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. There are lots of lies and myths spread around by these kinds of people, so maybe we should have a discussion on what the actual immigration process is actually like. Thank you to my mother for providing me with the following information on immigration law.
We see a lot of undocumented immigrants in America because there are only a select amount of visas that can be given out. There are non-immigrant and immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas can be working visas, student visas, and more. While having this visa can help with eventual immigrant status, it does not count at first. As for immigrant visas, there are only specific ways to obtain this. Having an immediate relative petition you is the ideal situation. And pretty much the only other options are a U-Visa, which one could apply for if they are the victim of a crime against their person while in the United States, and with provisions under the Violence Against Women Act which allows victims of domestic abuse to petition themselves.
Besides visas, an immigrant may try to apply for asylum. However, asylum is only granted under specific cases. Essentially, an individual would have to be facing discrimination and violence based on certain, recognized, protective groups. Only limited situations apply, and it also depends on the discretion of the judge and official that ends up deciding the case. Escaping from general violence back home is seldom enough to be granted asylum. My mother, after all, has had plenty of clients who have had their family members murdered in front of them and who have faced threats of serious violence back at home, but are still not given asylum.
This information is meant in no way to imply that all Latin American countries are gang ridden and horrible, but rather to shed a light on how when even escaping extreme circumstances, it is difficult for many immigrants to come here the “right way.” They often do not have the time or money to when their life depends on it.
And when they are here, they are not trying to steal American jobs and ruin American lives and the economy. In fact, programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Obama’s proposed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) actually help the American economy because then immigrants actually can pay taxes and “play by the rules.”
The American Dream has always been sold to us as people coming to America to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a name for themselves, through honest and hard work, because a stable income is well-deserved by all if they just work hard enough. So why can’t people achieve this American Dream anymore? Well, it is because the United States is backwards, embarrassing, and racist, and the American Dream is a lie invented by greedy capitalists to have you working harder for little-to-no payout.