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Getting green cards is no easy task

BY GUEST COLUMN | JUNE 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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President Obama's recent announcement that the federal government will no longer seek to deport the children of illegal immigrants has led to a deluge of discussion that has been equal parts bombastic, ethnocentric, and misguided.

Some may find this executive order, delivered the summer before a national election and on the heels of another "controversial" proclamation about gay marriage, as yet another bold move by Obama; others may take a more apocalyptic view that this is somehow amnesty and anarchy and socialist-fascism.

However, sadly, like other things heralded by the administration as great successes, this announcement amounts, at best, to smoke and thunder.

Obviously, this isn't amnesty. It doesn't grant special status, doesn't protect from state illegal-immigrant laws, doesn't provide any support whatsoever to anyone beyond a promise not to seek to deport them and to allow for the application of workers' visas if they meet certain requirements.

Unfortunately, reality often conceding to worldviews steeped in ethnicity and class, there is a troublesome narrative underpinning many staunchly anti-immigration voices: 11 million or so "illegals" sinisterly infiltrating the United States, sinisterly working in tandem to steal jobs, and, most sinisterly of all, bringing their strange foreign culture with them — Spanish, Che, and soccer (poverty, disease, and crime also implied). One need only take a visit to the "Fox Nation" website for a sufficient rundown. The most spectacular recent example came from Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who claimed on CNN that children of illegal immigrants somehow are responsible agents in being born in the United States illegally.

Many object to such a description of their beliefs, insisting it's a matter of respecting the law and that they would have no problems with immigrants from anywhere so long as they did so legally; surely as simple as passing a test and saying the pledge. However, the forcefulness of their arguments and the terms they use to describe the issue belies ethnic and cultural bias as well as ignorance to immigration policy and its execution.

For your average immigrant, naturalization involves one critical element: the status of permanent alien resident for at least five years.

If you will allow me to indulge myself with a personal anecdote: I am of that honored and vaunted class of immigrants who went through the legal apparatus to gain permanent alien status, a journey enormously time-consuming, confusing, and expensive.

You must be sponsored by an employer, which must prove that no American qualifies for your job. You have several different types of visas, medical forms, travel forms, and affidavits which must be renewed yearly, biannually, randomly. It's not at all easy, certainly not cheap. I immigrated to the United States in 2001 and received my green card in 2007, meaning that if I actually wanted to become a citizen, this would be the first year I could even apply.

This isn't to say that immigration laws should be struck down or that anyone who wants in should get in. A lot of people want to be here, and there needs to be some oversight.

However, immigration policies make it all but impossible for many immigrants to afford or qualify for legal immigration, which depending on their circumstances, may make illegal entry their only option, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation and neglect, an issue completely ignored by supporters and detractors of this executive order. Immigration has become a farce debate with semi-imaginary arguments.

Jesse Marks
jesse-marks@uiowa.edu


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