By Virginia Valencia
“Ya viene la migra!” my brother shouted as my ten-year old self ran faster toward the soccer ball. I grew up with this saying that “immigration was coming for you” as being voiced as a bad joke.
For a portion of my life I had little to no knowledge of the immigration process and disregarded it as someone else’s struggle. I was extremely privileged with a safety I took for granted. My childhood joke is no longer funny.
The presidency of Donald Trump has put a new fear in the people and has intensified the negative views of people who entered the country illegally. Society is filled with people demanding them to “get in line,” and “do it the right way”, yet these same people do not know the “right way”.
It is not simply getting a number, waiting for that number to be called and then, bam, they are a new American citizen. Our current immigration system makes it practically impossible for many of these people who entered illegally to get a green card let alone be American citizens.
The American Immigration Council website informs that legal immigration to the United States on a permanent basis is limited to three cases: employment, family reunification and humanitarian protection.
These lines are highly regulated, subject to a vast number of limitations and requirements, and are extremely costly. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website states that requirements begin with one’s eligibility to petition based on the three categories.
After ensuring eligibility, one needs to confirm availability of visas in their appropriate category and country.
According to The Society Pages website, Mexican visas have a waiting period of two decades.
If one petitions and there are available visas in their category and country, the next step is to fill out an I–485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and pay the immigration fees. The USCIS website states that these fees begin at $1,140 per application.
This does not include the legal help needed to undergo the green card process which can run up to $5,000 to $7,500, according to ABC news.
The AIC website also cautions those entering the country illegally, who make it through the initial requirements and acquire a place in a line, that it is well-known to wait years for not only service but any information pertaining to their case. These are the lucky ones.
Many people entering illegally cannot get in a line because there is no line available for them.
When these people ran from their homeland I assure you they were not thinking about applications, interviews or fees. They saw opportunity. Not an opportunity to cause harm or to take jobs but an opportunity to live safely like you and me. It is very simple: these people work, just like Americans; these people study, just like Americans; and these people crave to belong, just like Americans.
Many of these people who immigrated illegally pay Income Taxes every year just like us. According to The Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, more than 50 percent of them pay income taxes and over $11.64 billion in state and local taxes in a year.
This population of eleven million people did not enter illegally because they wanted to but because they had no choice.
President Trump’s reinforced immigration laws have given rise to ethnocentric Americans who oversimplify a process they know little about. As an American I am ashamed. As a Mexican-American I am angered. We cannot let ignorance prevail.