I didn’t grow up around immigrants or refugees. When undocumented immigrants started coming across my news radar a few years ago, I was confused. I figured a person could just go to the Secretary of State’s office and apply for citizenship and be on their way, so why weren’t these immigrants doing just that?
I genuinely praise God for a newfound education into the immigration system. I’ve been convicted about the aggressive way I’ve recently approached this issue and have apologized and grown from that. What I hope to do here is help others who are asking the same questions I was a few years ago by offering some factual and gentle information:
1. “I’m not against (Mexican) immigrants, but they need to do it legally. If they do it illegally, they are criminals and their punishment is deserved.”
There is no legal way for the vast majority of Mexican immigrants to enter the United States and there is no legal way for the vast majority undocumented Mexican immigrants to become documented. There is no line to wait in. What immigration advocates are lobbying for is not a removal of border policies or restrictions, but an overhaul of the current laws to make them humane, just, and up-to-date with our contemporary culture and economy. This should be an encouragement to everyone and celebrated that activists want secure borders too, as it often feels like there is so little common ground out there.
When most European immigrants came to the United States (like mine), there were no laws on the books regarding immigration that would have prevented them from coming. So there wasn’t a “legal” channel versus an illegal one, they could just come! A lot has changed since then…
Five ways an immigrant from Mexico can become a legal, documented resident of the United States:
- Have a family based sponsor. A sibling who is already a US citizen can file a petition in the United States. There a ~20 year wait, of course if you have a sibling who is already a US citizen.
- Have a spouse who is a US citizen. (A spouse who is a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) requires a 2 year wait)
- Employer sponsor. Only 5000 of these can go to someone who is not “highly skilled” (i.e. master’s degree, etc.).
- Flee as a refugee. Which you can’t be qualified for if you’re from Mexico.
- Diversity Visa Lottery, which you can’t apply for if you’re from Mexico.
So an undocumented immigrant from Mexico can find a US citizen to marry or get one of the 5000 employment visas able to the poor in Mexico. Meanwhile, we have 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, many of whom are working. These numbers show that our economy’s need for immigrant work, as well as the amount of immigrants already a part of our American community and economy, do not match. The law (only 5000 visas allowed) has not kept up with the realities of our economy and culture.
The idea behind Comprehensive Immigration Reform is not to open the borders up to everyone, it’s to have a legal way for people to immigrate here and to have a number of visas that meet the needs of our labor economy.
For more on Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
2. Muslim refugees are a terrorist threat and need extreme vetting
This list is from World Relief’s CEO Tim Breene’s article, “Separating Facts from Fear in the Refugee Vetting Process.” Breene is referring to the existing vetting process:
- The refugee admission process is the most thorough of all entry processes into the U.S.
- We do know who these refugees are. They go through a multi-step process that generally lasts anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and includes fingerprinting, biometrics, retina scans, and multiple interviews by different agencies, including the United Nations, State Department contractors, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. World Relief—the organization I lead that resettles refugees—receives a thorough biographic report compiled by the U.S. State Department on each refugee we receive before they enter the country.
- The effectiveness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that, of the roughly three million refugees admitted since 1980, none has ever killed a single American in a terrorist attack.
- The Cato Institute’s research puts the annual risk of a refugee-committed terrorist killing on U.S. soil at 1 in 3.6 billion.
- Nothing within this executive order would have prevented 9/11, nor the more recent attacks in San Bernardino or Orlando.
- At least 5,700 fewer persecuted Christians will be allowed to come to the U.S. as refugees in Fiscal Year 2017 than in Fiscal Year 2016 as a result of the order’s dramatic cut to the overall number of refugees allowed, despite the president’s stated concern for persecuted Christians.
- In the past decade, the U.S. has never received more than a fraction of one percent of the world’s refugees annually, and it has received more Christian refugees than those of any other faith background.
- Of the 19,324 Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since 2012, 47% have been children thirteen years of age or under, while just 13% have been men aged 21 through 40.
3. Immigrants and refugees commit lots of crime
From a USA Today data analysis of undocumented immigrant violent crime rates:
…(from) the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes any kind of plan to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and regularly testifies in Congress against them.
“There’s no evidence that immigrants are either more or less likely to commit crimes than anyone else in the population,” Janice Kephart, a CIS researcher, said last week on the PBS NewsHour.
This isn’t to say immigrants and refugees don’t commit crimes. People commit crimes. But spreading stories about individual crimes committed by immigrants or refugees in an attempt to show that all immigrants or refugees are like this isn’t helpful or fair. There are plenty of crimes committed by white people that could be spread around, but would not indicate that all white people were this way.
4. Immigrants and refugees steal American jobs
Most immigrants are being employed in jobs employers are unable to find American citizens to work in.
Immigrants also create jobs because they are consumers as well.
Labor jobs taken up by immigrants create more jobs “up the job chain” for American citizens. For example, if immigrants are milking cows, it creates jobs at the ice cream factory down the street.
Immigrant labor in picking fruits and vegetables allows for produce prices to be cheaper for all Americans. If immigrants weren’t picking these, this produce would likely just be grown in other countries.
Three-quarters of the time undocumented immigrants get taxes taken out of their paycheck, paying $15 billion into our Social Security system (which they can never access).
One more note that’s important to make is that Comprehensive Immigration Reform needed to happen long before Donald Trump took office. The immigration system is a mess, but it’s not the fault of the immigrant, it’s laws that need to change.
The heart of this issue that is overlooked is that abused, oppressed and neglected people are running from terrorists, extreme poverty, and genocide and are seeking “refuge” in the United States. This is different from simply pursuing the American Dream (not that that is criminal either, as that’s what our European ancestors were doing). When hearing a story from an undocumented immigrant or a refugee, we realize we would do the same thing they did to save themselves and their families.
We need border security to keep drugs out and to moderate the amount of people who want to come to our country for reasons of convenience. But to clump these folks in with those running for their lives doesn’t help anyone. The refugee vetting process is already in place for this, and the immigration process could be in place if we created the legal vetting process needed (Comprehensive Immigration Reform), rather than simply saying ‘no’ to everyone, which is what is currently in place. Undocumented and incoming immigrants would jump at the opportunity to get a visa (and eventually citizenship), and in jumping at this opportunity would allow the needed vetting process to take place. It would be fine to deport people who didn’t apply for a visa, if visas were readily available to them. Without visas available (without a way to get documented), immigrants will continue to go “unvetted,” which isn’t helpful for the immigrant or American society.
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