The United States has a fondness for the mythology of Ellis Island. After having sold all their posessions in their home countries, the story goes, immigrant families arrived on ships below the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of American opportunity, to begin their new lives of prosperity. To live in the United States, all these prospective citizens needed was a willingness to work hard and maybe to change their last name.
This is a nice thought, but the problem with this story is that many Americans, and others, seem to think that anyone can simply become an American citizen if they express a desire and put their name on a wait list, but this simply isn’t true. If a person does not have a job offer from an American employer, family living in the United States, an American fiance or a million dollars to invest in an American company, there is no legal path to citizenship for them unless they are seeking asylum.
How can we be expected to have a real conversation about immigration reform if voters are not fully educated on the issue? Many politicians will tell us that illegal immigrants should seek out a legal path to become citizens, but most of these people are in their situation because there isn’t one for them. The way the system is structured now, once someone is caught in the country illegally, they are deported and barred from reentering.
With this in mind, it seems pretty heartless and obstructionist when some politicians refuse to even discuss immigration reform if a proposal includes a pathway to legal residency for those already in the country illegally. Since these people are already in the country and in many cases have established themselves in their community, I think we should all urge our representatives to seriously consider president Obama’s proposal for immigration reform that includes a visa for illegal immigrants already present in the country and a path to legal residency.