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26.9.08

Get In Line

I've seen various versions of this cartoon going around, making the point that just telling immigrants to "get in line" to come to the U.S. legally is a joke -- there are actually dozens of "lines," some of which can take a decade or more before you get your green card or citizenship, and huge numbers of immigrants (particularly "unskilled" people with no family in the U.S., which is most of the undocumented population) aren't eligible to wait in any line.

The problem with the cartoon is that it's actually a gross oversimplification -- the immigration process is far more byzantine than the nice straight arrows in the diagram. For example, the cartoon doesn't get into the consequences of criminal convictions, which can bar you from getting status depending on the nature of the crime, the severity of the punishment, and the mood of the judge.

The law on criminal bars to immigration does, however, give some (depressing) insight into the U.S.'s priorities. It's actually easier to get around a domestic violence conviction than a drug paraphernalia conviction. The U.S. would rather have a citizen who beat his wife than one that had a bong.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Christina said...

Oh dear, I've not been good at explaining things again.

You say at the end of your post that "most undocumented people have no family in the US". That isn't true. Many, many undocumented people, particularly those who have been here any length of time, have family members who are citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders). There are so many families of "mixed status" out there. Two common permutations:

1) undocumented parents with US citizen kids. Remember, those kids aren't real anchor babies since they can't apply for you to become a US citizen before age 21. Then the parent could not even fix their papers in the US under current law unless they entered with a visa. Yet the second they go outside the US to get their papers fixed, they will get hit with a 10 year penalty for being here without papers. That penalty can be excused in some cases, but only if you can prove extreme hardship to LPR/Citizen spouse or parents, not childern.

So in that case, anchor baby pays off at age 31 or so (plus processing time- year or more)

The other tragic case is the "Everyone but Juanito" case. I've seen so many families where everyone but one family member has status. A common blend is a family where the oldest child was born in a foreign country but his younger siblings are born in the US. Parents got papers, but the kids are still in process. Then the kid gets arrested for driving without a license, ends up in immigration custody and is screwed. Kid gets deported, freaks out because entire family is in US (and so was he from age 2years or something) and immediately comes back illegaly. Then they get caught and TA DA! Federal Prison time is possible for illegal rentry! Isn't that great!

On a different note, there is a huge backlog on citizenship applications because Department of Homeland Security can't get all the background checks approved- some people have been waiting an additional 5+ years. People have resorted to suing to get their citizenship.

It's a truly great system.

6:56 PM  

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