Immigration Has Grown More Complicated

Chris Hawley, USA Today, September 28, 2010

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Many people in Latin America have requested legal visas to come to the USA, but the wait can be decades, if approval is given at all. Diversity visa programs aimed at increasing the USA’s cultural mix are skewed against Latin America because there are so many of its people already here. All of which provides a powerful inducement to sneak in, critics of the U.S. immigration system say.

U.S. visa laws have changed and become so much more complex since the days of Ellis Island that it is simply impossible for many hardworking people around the world to legally immigrate to the USA, they say.

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Immigration-control advocates say the system is doing its job and the true problem is that the USA cannot afford to take in more people.

“America is already at an unsustainable level of hyperlegal immigration,” said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee. “Anybody that’s complaining about us not letting enough people in legally is full of it.”

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These days, U.S. immigrant visas are limited mostly to the educated, the affluent or people who have spouses or parents in the USA, said Gustavo Garcia, an immigration lawyer in Mexico City. If the ancestors of most Americans had tried to immigrate to the USA under today’s rules, their American Dream would have ended before it began, Garcia said.

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Under today’s rules, most immigrants must be sponsored by a family member or by an employer, who must prove to the U.S. government that the immigrant has skills that are in short supply.

Even for those who meet the requirements for a visa, getting approval to immigrate to the USA can take 20 years or more {snip}.

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Today, U.S. citizens trying to bring a spouse or young child to the USA can get visas for them almost immediately, said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Other people face a longer wait.

U.S. citizens trying to bring an adult, Mexican-born son or daughter to the USA face an 18-year wait before a visa becomes available, according to the U.S. State Department’s monthly visa report. For a U.S. citizen trying to help a Filipino sibling immigrate, the wait is 19 years.

Bentley said the system works well, noting that about 1 million people legally immigrate each year and the biggest backlogs are for a handful of countries that have historically sent large numbers of people, mainly Mexico, India, South Korea, China and the Philippines.

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So how does an unskilled worker from Mexico, with no job offer and no family in the USA get to legally immigrate there?

He can’t, said Mike Franquinha, a Phoenix immigration lawyer.

“There’s no vehicle for these people to immigrate. It just doesn’t exist,” he said.

From March 2007 to March 2009, about 300,000 people either entered the USA illegally or overstayed temporary visas, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington. Half of them were Mexicans.

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* Making more visas available for Latin America and nearby countries. The shortage of visas and the resulting 18- to 25-year wait prompt many people to enter the USA illegally, Garcia said.

* Reinstating Section 245(i), a provision in the immigration law that expired in 2001. It allowed spouses and children in the country illegally to stay while awaiting an immigrant visa and after paying a fine.

* Passing the Dream Act, which would allow children brought to the USA illegally by their parents to achieve permanent residency if they attend college or serve in the military.

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The real troublemakers, said ALIPAC’s Gheen, are employers who hire illegal immigrants, politicians who praise their contributions and authorities who make them feel welcome by, for example, offering forms and services in Spanish.

“If you follow the (immigration) rules, you’re penalized; if you break the rules, you’re rewarded,” Gheen said.

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