Why Don't Immigrants Just Come Into The US Legally?
January 22, 2019Share:
By Charles Stonick
A recent article by America’s Voice, a non-profit that promotes policy changes to assist immigrants and their families’ labor, civil, and political rights, describes the case of Jesus Lara Lopez. Jesus, a father of four, who was recently deported, illustrates the immigrants’ dilemma.
Jesus emigrated from Mexico 15+ years ago and had lived and worked in Ohio, marrying and raising a family. He was stopped driving to the store by police and charged with driving without a license. That quickly led to his deportation.
So why didn’t Jesus come into this country legally? And after getting here, why didn’t he just “get legal”?
The answers go a long way to explaining what people mean when they say our immigration system is broken. In Jesus’ case there was absolutely no way he could immigrate into the US legally.
HOW DOES ONE IMMIGRATE LEGALLY?
There are only a few ways to legally do so. Of course, many people can visit on a tourist visa or attend college on a student visa but these offer only temporary stays. Immigration is different.
Immigration Method 1 - Employer-based immigration
An employer can sponsor a foreign worker to come to the US, but that worker must have a job lined up with an eligible employer who will sponsor them. Typically this requires:
A. The worker have advanced skills and longtime professional experience (the “Einstein” visa). Think scientists, engineers, computer programmers, athletes, top models, etc. Fun Fact: This was the method Melania Trump used to obtain her visa.
B. The worker must stay with the sponsoring employer (this has led to employer abuse, such as the Louisiana teachers recruited from India and cheated out of wages by their employer. The Southern Poverty Law Center won their suit against the school districts last year).
C. And there are limits on how many such “Einstein” visas can be granted. Separately, there are temporary, seasonal visas permitted for low-skill labor, such as for the annual importation of agricultural or service workers. Fun Fact: These are the annual visas used by Mar-a-Lago to hire their seasonal cooks and maids.
Immigration Method 2 - Family-based (so-called “chain”) immigration
A. US citizens can petition for their spouses, parents, children, and siblings to join them in the United States. Fun Fact: This was the method Melania Trump used to sponsor her parents’ immigration.
B. There are waiting lists for each of these categories of relationships. For example, married children of US citizens from Mexico will wait about 20 years for a visa and Filipino siblings of US citizens wait about 25 years.
NOTE: If a person seeking to immigrate does not have a close family tie in the US, as in Jesus’ case, they are ineligible for this route.
Immigration Method 3 – Asylum Request
A. Each year, the US sets a limit on how many refugees will be admitted for humanitarian reasons. In 2016, only 20,000 refugees were admitted. Not all asylum seekers qualify as refugees, and for various reasons Mexican citizens are rarely approved for asylum – in 2016 only about 200 Mexicans were granted asylum.
B. To be admitted as refugees, individuals must be screened by international and U.S. agencies and prove that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country “based on race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, or national origin.” An immigrant does not qualify as a refugee simply because of poverty in their home country.
C. In most cases asylum seekers have their asylum cases denied and are deported. In addition, the Trump Administration is now turning away asylum applicants at the border, in violation of US and international law.
So as a Mexican national, there was no way — zero — for Jesus to come to the US legally. He would not have been sponsored by an employer, he didn’t have immediate family in the US who could sponsor him, and as a Mexican he stood no chance to qualify for asylum.
THEN WHY DIDN’T JESUS “GET LEGAL” AFTER HE GOT HERE?
Once Jesus made it into the US, there was no way for him to obtain legal status. Period.
• Since his children are not over the age of 21, they could not sponsor him.
• Jesus wife is undocumented so she couldn’t sponsor him. Even if he had married a US citizen, it wouldn’t have been practical. To gain legal status through a wife that has citizenship, Jesus would have to leave the country and wait for about 10 years before re-entering the US.
JESUS STORY MAKES THE CASE FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM
Here we have a productive family man – a breadwinner - that now resides in Mexico, separated, most likely forever, from his family. He cannot begin to earn enough there to support his American citizen children in the US. They are now our responsibility.
A system that punishes his children AND the American taxpayer is a broken system. It’s a true lose/lose proposition.
Immigration 101: What is Asylum?
Why is it extremely difficult to gain asylum from Mexico?