Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Counting My Blessings

There's been a number of comments on my earlier posts about migration HERE and HERE and HERE. One of the comments, left by a friend of mine, I have copied into this post (see below) because it corrects some of the misinformation I presented about illegal migration. The friend, though not a Christian, has reminded me of my Christian duty to count my blessings. And I don't say that lightly, as I have just received word this morning that Esther and Joe and Miriam's visas will be delayed at least 8 weeks because a certain document was missing from one of the sponsorship forms (not a very pleasing prospect seeing as we already emptied our pockets to buy airplain tickets).

The issue of illegal migration is a complex one and I am not proposing any answers. But I would make the following points: The person who said it would be ‘easier’ for you to bring Esther and the children over the border illegally, rather than to continue with the legal migration process, is breathtakingly ignorant.

Crossing the Mexico/US border is extremely dangerous. 500 people died trying to cross it in 2005. This is typical for the annual number of deaths. By no stretch of the imagination could a legal immigration process involve the risk of death.Those illegal migrants who get into the US face a whole new set of risks. They have to live life below the radar, usually working for less-than-minimum wage (as you noted). If mistreated by their employers, they have no recourse; complaining means deportation. They are entitled to no medical benefits apart from the fact that in case of medical emergency, hospital emergency rooms cannot turn them out. (They will still be billed for the medical services they receive.) They live with the constant knowledge that they could be deported at any time, even decades after they and their children have made a life in the US. How is this “easy”?

Your remark that you chose the legal route because you are a Christian strikes me as smug, for want of a better word. Laudable as the policy of honesty may be, the migrants you are talking about do not have a choice between honesty/dishonesty. You are in the incredibly privileged position of possessing a US passport. They aren’t. Believe me, if they were married to someone with an American passport, they would go the “honest” way and migrate legally, because their position once they were finally admitted to the US would be 1000 times better.Yes, there are problems with the way the government handles legal migration. I am acutely aware of this, as the red tape of the immigration branch of Homeland Security meant that I had to give birth in the US alone, while my husband was excluded from witnessing the birth of his child for no legitimate reason. That situation was not easy, but at no point did I contemplate smuggling Matthew in through Tijuana. I wanted my husband free of incarceration, and alive.

However, these are two separate issues here: injustice toward legal migrants and injustice toward illegal migrants. US policy is a mess on both fronts. But the “irony” of which you speak – “easy” illegal migration versus “difficult” legal migration – does not exist. It is a myth perpetrated by those who know nothing of illegal migration.
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