By Rachel Luchmun
The case of Jesus Torres (see this article) provoked two kinds of responses: those sympathetic to his cause and denouncing his deportation, and those who believe that Torres’ deportation is deserved because he should have gotten with the program and become a proper U.S. citizen.
Unfortunately, this latter kind of thinking is widespread. Illegal immigrants steal jobs and money, or so they say; if illegals do not want to do the right thing and become legal residents, then they should just go home. They are expecting too much from the government! They should try that tactic in their home country, see where that gets them.
This argument would be valid, if it wasn’t for the immigration system. The idea that it takes more effort to avoid becoming legal than to actually take the route to legalization is rooted in ignorance and wishful thinking.
Becoming a lawful resident of the U.S. takes both time and money. According to uscis.gov, the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act provides a way for individuals to obtain a green card regardless of the manner in which they entered the United States and the lawfulness of their employment… if the relevant forms were submitted before April 30, 2001. Any petitions from lawful relatives in the U.S. take money and time, as well as require the immigrant to be out of the country. For instance, filing an I-485 form (application to register permanent residence or adjust status) costs $1070. The I-130 form (petition for alien relative) costs $420.
Non-citizens in the United States do not have the same rights as citizens. Illegal immigrants, even less so. They are not staying out of a sense of entitlement, wanting to milk the government down and taking jobs away. They are staying because, however bad their situation is here, it is even worse wherever it is they come from. They would rather take a hard, illegal life here than a legal life somewhere else.
Taking the legal avenue is not as easy as some may think. The process is long and very costly; a long list of forms and data are needed. Simple things such as getting a driver’s permit or a social security number involve jumping through a number of hoops. For people already struggling with their lives, it is simply not an option.
So next time you want to complain about illegal immigrants being “lazy” and taking advantage of the system; next time you want to tell any non-citizen that, if they are not happy with the state of things, they can just go home; remember that if they chose to be here under those conditions, it’s vastly because it’s their best bet.
Remember also that when they say America was founded on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” they do exclusively refer to citizens of the United States.
Contact Rachel Luchmun, managing editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.