Portraits of the Undocumented in America Part 2


[otw_shortcode_button href=”https://justnomore.com/news/portraits-of-the-undocumented-in-america-part-1/” size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square”]Portraits of the Undocumented in America Part 1[/otw_shortcode_button]

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

These words seem like ghosts from a former era. Being tired or poor or yearning for freedom are not among the acceptable criteria for legal residency in the United States.

If you are listening to the national dialogue on immigration, you might be hearing some of our leaders expressing a different sentiment towards the newest arrivals in this country. Especially the undocumented.

So who are these undocumented immigrants? And why didn’t they just follow the law? Why didn’t they just get the papers to come here legally?

Well, it is not as easy as you might think.

What is the Criteria for Legal Immigration to the US?

Basically, all legal immigrants fall into one of the following categories. They are immediate relatives of US citizens, (or green card holders), they are brought here specifically to work, they win a visa diversity lottery, or they qualify as refugees or asylum seekers.

So if you don’t have family sponsoring you, you don’t have an employer sponsoring you, you don’t live in a country that qualifies you for the diversity lottery, and you don’t qualify as a refugee or asylee, there is no line to get in the back of.

If you are fleeing poverty, villages with water so foul that one out of every six infants dies of dysentery, if you are fleeing a former agricultural community that has been paved over by a foreign corporation, if you are fleeing a town with no schools that your child can attend, if you are fleeing a ghost town with no opportunities, if you are fleeing an urban center in which random murders happen weekly on your block, if you are fleeing a neighborhood in which a huge percentage of young girls have no option but to enter the sex trade, and you want better for your daughter, you do not qualify.

If you simply dream of a better life for yourself or your children, you do not qualify.

So How Does Somebody Become an Asylee or Refugee?

Refugees usually come from war-torn nations. They undergo an extensive screening process that often takes years, before being admitted to the US.

Cubans have had their own category within our system of immigration law for more than half a century. Although there have been changes in policies, just about anyone arriving from Cuba has been treated under the law as a refugee.   It is ironic that two of the Cuban Americans presidential candidates both spoke about how their parents had come here legally. There really was just about no way for Cubans to come here illegally in that era.

Asylum seekers are different. They may be fleeing the same war torn nations. They may be marginalized ethnic or religious or political minorities in their countries of origin. But instead of being granted legal status before arriving in the US, asylum seekers apply when they are already in the country. They might have entered the country with tourist or student visas, or they might have entered without inspection.

They then have to go before an immigration judge to prove their case. The burden of proof of persecution (or fear of persecution) is on the applicant.

Every asylum seeker has a story. The journalist from Colombia whose daughter had been kidnapped as retribution for an article he wrote about the drug cartels.   The West African woman who was subjected to female genital mutilation as a child, who subsequently fled an involuntary marriage. The persecuted Christian from Pakistan. The young man from Romania who had been imprisoned and tortured for being gay. The indigenous rights activists from Central America.  The Bangladeshis whose political party has fallen out of favor.

[otw_shortcode_button href=”https://justnomore.com/news/deported2death/” size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square”]Read About Recent Bangladeshi Immigrants Here[/otw_shortcode_button] [otw_shortcode_button href=”https://justnomore.com/news/why-they-come-from-central-america/” size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square”]Read about Central American Immigrants Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

The decision to apply for asylum is a big one. If the case is denied, (and it is often denied) you will be sent back to the oppression that you were fleeing. There is no data available to tell us how many asylum seekers were sent to their deaths by our legal system.

Or if your case is denied, you can try to blend into the shadows. Join the ranks of the undocumented. Be called an “illegal” by those who have no comprehension of what you have been through.


Photo by Bruce Armstrong