27 April 2009 ~ 0 Comments

'Illegal Immigration Does Not Happen in a Vacuum' – New York Times

Article here

Anti-immigration strategists call for tough enforcement policies, which have only exacerbated the phenomena of mixed-status families as undocumented immigrants stay in this country and raise children here rather than risk leaving and facing a 10-year ban. If not for this ban, I would not be living in the shadows of American society today.

Illegal immigration does not take place in a vacuum — it is inextricably tied to the search for cheap labor, the mirage of an American dream, and enforcement efforts combined with an outdated system of antiquated quotas and categories. The barriers to solutions will only multiply when we ignore these inconvenient truths.

I took the opportunity to rail against the 10-year ban rather than talk for the DREAM Act–I think Hiroshi covered that angle quite well.

I fail to fathom why my family came here, hence I cannot really provide a personal narrative that seems appealing. Maybe it was a combination of losing faith in the Fijian government, my Dad losing his job, my mom yearning for her family and my sister–who was already studying in the United States–wanting her family with her. No one thought about me. No one thinks about me. I am just supposed to go to school, earn as many degrees as I can and stay out of trouble (and this is when I can afford school). That is my ‘job.’ It may be a mess created by my parents choices like Mark Krikorian states, but are they really to be blamed for being attracted to the false idea of the American dream? Armed with very little intellectual capital, they tried their best to do things legally. They had no idea that the 10-year visa backlog would age me out. How could they? Even the average American is clueless about immigration laws, let alone the little nuances in them.

Tamar Jacoby certainly does a good job of fleshing out what we have here, regardless of the socially constructed categories of legal and illegal:

But the article is also a tale of incredible stupidity on the part of the United States. A father realizes he has an unusually gifted daughter and sacrifices everything to bring her to America. She grasps early on that she’s a star and defies the rules to prove it. The family stays together against all odds so she can realize her potential. What a boon for the U.S. — or so you’d think. But then we thumb our nose at all this striving and sacrifice, blocking the young woman cold and throwing away what she could contribute over her lifetime.

Imagine how this story would look in historical perspective. What if classical Rome had behaved as we’re behaving? “Talented people from all over the known world were attracted to the great civilization and traveled there, hoping to share their gifts. But the rulers declined their services, barring them from even minimal participation, trashing their innovations and turning away their talents.”

You’d say that great power deserved to fail — and you’d be right. What a colossal waste.

A waste indeed.

I cannot speak for the family in the article.  Obviously, the father thought coming to the United States would give his children more opportunities and maybe legalization would not be so difficult. How many immigrants succumb to this mirage of the American dream that the United States has purported for so long? “Give us your tired, hungry and poor, yearning to breath freely…” And nowadays they just get thrown in jail.

I hope future immigrants realize that America is not the ‘promised land’ and elect to go elsewhere. And if it was not for the 10-year ban, many migrants would have left to ‘go back home’ instead of being separated from their families and communities. Many undocumented educated professionals would pursue their lives elsewhere instead of living in the shadows of the United States. I am in the latter group, having chosen family over ‘freedom.’ They can’t survive without me. And I have to stay put and die slowly and excruciatingly. Damn this ban.

The perception in this story that illegality might be a matter of individual choice—the father wanting to put provide better opportunities for his children—belies private and public structures that perpetuate that status. Immigration enforcement is precisely what causes the problem of ‘illegal immigration.’ No one is illegal, de facto. They are made illegal by the state when it draws that line to separate parents from children, sibling from sibling, and immigrants from their communities, countries, aspirations and dreams. I am glad to have had the chance to say so in the New York Times but I would rather not be the MSM spokesperson who has to really edit out what she says and writes. Thank goodness for this blog and The Sanctuary.

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