I read with interest the letter from Teena Welch on undocumented immigrants. She stated “I notice a lot of Latinos who are being deported have been here for years. Why in the world did they not take steps in all that time to become legal?”
I have to wonder if Ms. Welch knows or cares about how that process actually works. Undocumented immigrants have traditionally been required to exit the country (or turn themselves in to be deported) and apply for citizenship or a green card through U.S. consulates in their country of origin. Many of those who attempt this process find that due to their previous illegal entry into the USA, they are automatically barred from re-entry to the U.S. for three to 10 years.
Worse, that won’t matter if the waiting queue for legal entry is over a decade. In fact, the average waiting time for an applicant from Mexico to receive a green card is just over 18 years. That’s right, 18 long years. This is because annual demand far exceeds the yearly limits set by Congress. That doesn’t sound quite so welcoming as Ms. Welch may have imagined it would be.
I understand her anger. Economically, things have been difficult in the U.S. since the economic collapse of 2008. However, deporting undocumented immigrants is no magic solution to our problems. If you ask where most of the high-paying manufacturing jobs went, any conservative will tell you it was profitable for stock-holders on Wall Street to move those jobs to China. This investment trend was a key cause of the 2008 U.S. economic collapse. Those manufacturing jobs weren’t taken by illegal immigrants. They were stolen by wealthy Wall Street investors who profit by forcing American workers to compete against immigrants for the remaining service-type jobs left at places like Wall Mart and McDonald’s.
These low-paying, unskilled, dead-end positions offering little opportunity for advancement are frequently called “McJobs.” To be clear, undocumented immigrants didn’t take our jobs, we were forced to take theirs.
What options exist for an undocumented immigrant wishing to pursue the legal route and apply?
The most common method of obtaining permanent residence (green card status) is by marriage to a US citizen. Following that are sponsorship by a family member who is a citizen and the DREAM act for undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as children. These methods require money, time, and experienced legal council.
My opinion is Ms. Welch would do well to walk a mile in the shoes of an undocumented immigrant and face the difficult choices they make every day to feed and shelter their families. Then at least she might speak with more compassion for the tragic situation many find themselves in.
The limited application options for undocumented immigrants are too complicated to cover in the limited space available for this letter. To learn more, I encourage readers to visit these links to information online.