For those of you who wonder why I keep writing about immigration long after our own journey is over, or why I am going to law school in the fall, you might want to take some time to read this blog post. I wrote about Carlos and Amy a few months ago, but somehow reading the story in Amy’s own voice is all the more powerful.
While their story is unusual in some respects, it is not in others. There are hundreds of thousands of young adults in the U.S. who were brought into the country illegally as children. They may happily attend American primary, middle and high schools, but once they are college-aged, they are more than stuck. Most cannot get/renew their driver’s license, receive in-state tuition benefits or enter many universities. Even if they are lucky enough to achieve those three things (which is theoretically possible in a few states), they are unlikely to obtain employment once they graduate due to their lack of status.
And besides marrying a U.S. citizen, they simply have no chance at becoming legally present in the United States. While many people believe those children should suck it up and deal with the sins of their parents, I find it more than tragic. I believe this problem goes against all the values of our nation – to offer opportunity, education and equality. I find it disgusting that anti-immigrant elected officials have controlled this debate and turned the DREAM Act into an impossible dream. It’s one thing to punish (in some way) adult undocumented immigrants for entering the U.S. without inspection, but it’s another thing entirely to tell an 18-year-old who has been in the U.S. since he was 10 months old that his legal options in life are to a) relocate to another country before he turns 18.5 and starts accumulating illegal time or b) carry on with school or college but never be able to further your career because you will never pass a background check.
Beyond that I am in favor of immigration reform on a larger scale as well. I believe the millions of undocumented workers currently in this country have been essentially lured here by American jobs. If you combine a large number of hard-working, under-employed people with a job market desperate for manual laborers and stick a fence in between the two you can imagine what will and has happened. Who is to blame? The desperate worker? The thrifty, hungry American consumer? The interests of big businesses who depend on (what to Americans is considered) cheap labor? The answer is – there isn’t one group or person or organization to blame. But the national debate has put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the poorest and most vulnerable player.
I’m not saying there is nothing implicitly illegal in paying someone to take you over the U.S. border, even if you are solely in search of work, but I have yet to meet a Mexican migrant worker who has anything close to criminal intentions in this country, and I know a lot of undocumented workers. I am in favor of deporting criminal immigrants and am not in favor of open borders but our immigration policy is outdated and not representative of the demand for immigrants, both on the low and high-skilled end of the spectrum.
Despite the horrible things that are posted on public forums and muttered by people who claim they are against illegal immigration because it’s “illegal,” that point is far too simple for me. I don’t consider myself “illegal” because I always drive 10 miles over the speed limit, and I don’t consider friends who smoke pot or consumed alcohol when they were 18 “illegal.” The average person doesn’t really consider even the most hardened criminal “illegal.” They consider that person to have committed “illegal acts,” but the person him/herself is not considered “illegal.” Calling any person illegal is a way to distance oneself from the humanity of that person. It’s easier to say: “Illegals transport drugs and rape young girls and steal American jobs” than to say “Mexican migrant workers…” do all these things. Because frankly it is preposterous to suggest that Mexicans or Guatemalans are more likely to commit crimes than Americans. And it’s untrue that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes in the U.S. “Illegal” is the ultimate psychological “Other,” the best scapegoat for an increasingly fearful and xenophobic society.
Hmm… I started out just thinking I would reference Carlos and Amy’s blog today, but it turned into a mini-rant. Well, I hope it made you think anyway.