Forced ambivalence and the simplification of immigration issues “because I said so”

This is a post I started several weeks ago, so I wanted to finish it. It starts below:

Just read an interesting August 27th blog entry by Maira Kalman of the NYT. At first, I was excited to see another voice speaking in what seemed like support of immigration. As I kept reading down the page though, it became evident that Kalman’s position is ridiculously simplified and makes assumptions about the nature of immigration, “legal” and “illegal.” While she reflects on and seemingly celebrates the diversity seen in her neighborhood in (I assume) Brooklyn, she naively rejects the overwhelming facts of the unjust immigration system currently in place in the United States. At first glance, she seems very supportive of some sort of change to the system; yet gradually, any observant reader will realize that she’s advocating the status quo; if not the status quo, at least the willful ignorance that pervades this country, the idea that if it doesn’t concern you, you can simply ignore it and move on.

Posting a blog entry full of non-sequiturs (both illustrations and cutesy ideas) does not excuse you from this statement:

“What of the 12 million people living here who are undocumented? They are here illegally. Do they deserve to stay? There are groups lobbying for immigration reform. At community centers you meet dedicated organizers and undocumented people, and you think these are GREAT people and they CANNOT be sent back to their countries of origin. The problems are SUBSTANTIAL: Health care. Employment. Taxes. Detention facilities. Impenetrable bureaucracies. Is it naïve of me to think, while acknowledging the myriad problems, that the system is basically just?”

What in the world lead Kalman to believe that the system is just? Could it be the separation of families due to the flawed petition/visa system? Could it be the deportation of US citizens to Mexico? Maybe she doesn’t know how USCIS has broken the law, time after time, by not allowing derivative beneficiaries of green card petitions to maintain original priority dates; I am one of those beneficiaries, as are several others I know. Instead of being productive members of society, we’re forced to wait ten more years while USCIS plays the “because I said so” card. Or could it be selective memory? After all, Kalman herself is an immigrant.

Perhaps she should take a good look at what is happening in this country before making such statements and then following them up with shows of appreciation for diversity through images of mango lasse drinks and boxes of cookies from Pakistan. “Think small,” she says, “It helps me handle the complicated too-muchness[sic] of it all.”

Gee, Maira, could you think any smaller than the last sentence of your blog? “Happy to be here,” are you? Maybe you should be the first to get back in line.

A first step towards freedom

DREAM Act and U.S. Immigration Policy

Everyone should know about the DREAM Act. If you support immigration reform, you should support the DREAM Act, because it is a logical step towards legalization for many immigrants. Note that I didn’t say “illegal immigrants,” because I happen to be one of many originally “legal” immigrants who will benefit from this bill. Ironically, the only reason I’m now “undocumented” and technically “illegal” is because USCIS didn’t process my family’s petition for residency in good time, so I aged out. More on this later.

The DREAM Act was introduced again this year in the Senate. It has been introduced before, and it has failed before, but this year looks very good.

In basic terms, “This bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children (before the age of 16), and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.” (Sourced from Wikipedia, italics are mine)

If passed, this bill will give me and many other immigrants who went to high school and graduated but were not able to afford to go to college or get a legitimate job, the ability to go to school and take part in society, like normal people. We’d be able to get driver’s licenses, jobs, pay taxes, compete for scholarships and take out federal loans. We’d be able to get Social Security numbers, fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for grants and federal aid, and we’d be able to travel outside the US without fear of being placed on a 10 year ban list.

Read the Senate bill here and the House bill here.

There are a lot of arguments against this bill floating around out there. I think the primary argument is that we’d be giving rights to people who came to the US “illegally.”

A good response to this argument is that the Bill focuses on people who were children when they came to the US, and thus had no control over coming here. I certainly did not have any control in coming here. I was 11. Because the bill focuses specifically on people who were 16 or younger when they arrived, it avoids the major issue of so-called “amnesty” for “actual” “illegal” immigrants, the parents of those children. Please note that the bill says nothing about the parents.

Another good response to the argument about illegality is the fact that the bill will benefit many “undocumented” immigrants who came to the country legally, but for whatever reason lost status and are in limbo for a certain period of time. I am one of these people. Here is a timeline of what happened to me:

We came here legally on a B1/B2 visa in 1995 when I was eleven. My
parents extended that visa and then, when my father got a job, changed
it to H1 in 1996. After that my father applied for an L visa and was
denied it. Unfortunately, our lawyer did not apply for an extension of
the H1B visa, and while going through a lengthy process of appeals, my
parents fell out of status at the end of 2000. I was sixteen at that
time.

While my father was going through the appellate process, my mother
found a teaching job and her employer applied for an Alien Employment
Certification (ETA 750) – the first step in getting a green card
through employment, under Section 245 (i).

1) The Application for Alien Employment Certification for my mother
with me as a beneficiary was filed on April 23, 2001 with a priority
date of April 24, 2001. After that the application lingered in limbo
with thousands of other applications between California EDD,
Department of Labor and Backlog Reduction Centers for the next six
years.

Meanwhile I turned eighteen in 2002 and lost my legal status as well.

2) The Application was finally approved by the Department of Labor on
January 2, 2007. Now my mother’s employer could file Immigrant
Petition for Alien Worker (I-140) and my parents could file for
adjustment of status (I-485). Both forms were filed concurrently in
June 2007.

3) I turned twenty one in 2005 and could no longer be a beneficiary on
my mother’s petition or application for adjustment of status.

4) The petition was approved in October 2007 and my parents’
application to adjust status was approved on October 26, 2007.

5) My mother filed Petition for Alien Relative (I-130) for me in
November 2007, receipt date – November 15, 2007.

Technically, I am an “illegal” immigrant simply because of bureaucratic slowdown. Shouldn’t the US government give me my rights anyway? After all, it’s their fault I’m now undocumented. At the very least, the government should streamline their visa and residency process so that people like my family and I won’t have to wait 10 years to get permanent residency. We didn’t do anything wrong.

The argument isn’t merely about me though. There are many people who would benefit from this bill – young adults who want to go to college and live a normal life – you should consider them and what they can do for your society. Oakland just passed a council measure stating that they will give illegal immigrants ID cards, just like San Francisco did recently. I wish I was in Oakland now. It’s a first step towards freedom.

I have to say, my family and I have been really lucky. I got to attend UC Berkeley with in-state tuition because I went to a California high school. My parents paid the full in-state tuition because I wasn’t eligible for scholarships or financial aid. It would have been nice to have a job at Berkeley. I could have had one. I could have been hired by the one of the computing labs on campus. It was a done deal until it came time to verify my employment eligibility.

Now that I’ve made plans to go to grad school this fall, I can’t get any assistance from the government because I wasn’t able to fill out a FAFSA. I got a tuition grant from the school, but that’s not even close enough to paying for tuition. It would be nice to get a job when I get to Virginia, but it most likely won’t happen.

Here’s a link:

DREAM Act community