The term “broken immigration system” seems to have become a catchphrase in the discourse regarding immigration reform. Politicians all seem to agree that we have a “broken immigration system,” but do they really understand how broken the system really is and the effect it has on law abiding individuals trying to follow the rules to immigrate to the United States? The answer must be no because if they truly understood how screwed up the system is, and the unjust effect the system has on people, my guess is that partisanship would be set aside and a sensible compromise would be reached just out of a basic sense of humanity. An example of our backwards and broken system:
In the late 80’s and early 90’s civil war was rampant in Central American countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador. As a result, many people elected to flee to the United States rather than chose sides in the conflict and be forced into war. People traveled up through Mexico and arrived in the U.S. Once safely in the U.S. most of these immigrants applied for asylum, seeking the protection of our country from the harm they would no doubt face at home. The amount of people fleeing war was great, and the number of asylum applications filed created at backlog at immigration that has not been effectively handled.
Once these individuals filed for asylum they were given work permits and told they could safely reside in the U.S. while they waited for their asylum applications to be adjudicated. To date, nearly twenty five years later, immigration has still not adjudicated all asylum applications submitted in the early 90s. What this means is that many thousands of individuals have been legally working, residing, starting families and companies, and establishing their lives here for nearly a quarter century while they were waiting for their asylum claims to be heard. They have tried to immigrate to the U.S. the “right” way.
Now comes the injustice – Immigration has only made headway on the Central American asylum applications the last five or six years. That is fifteen to twenty years after the applications were originally filed. When these asylum seekers are now called in for interviews on their applications, they are told that everything has changed in their home countries and they now must go back. Keep in mind that had immigration gotten to these applications in a timely manner, nearly all of these people would have obtained green cards due to conditions in their country. Instead, these people have established lives in the U.S. with permission of the government, paid taxes, obeyed the law, and have children that don’t even speak Spanish in many cases, and now face deportation.
The only way to avoid deportation in these cases is to prove to a Judge that these long-time residents have a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) spouse, parent or child that suffers from some type of extreme ailment or condition that would be made worse by relocating to the Central American country from which they came. In short, if a person has the good fortune of having a healthy family, they will have the extreme misfortune of being deported from the U.S.
This is just one example of how our immigration system is broken. The system causes undue delay in allowing people to legally immigrate to the United States, fails to take into account the time a person lawfully remained in the U.S. waiting for an application to be adjudicated before summarily deporting them unless they are “lucky” enough to have a sick relative. It is a system that rips families apart and robs people of the benefit of a lifetime of hard work. Our immigration system is an embarrassment made only more embarrassing by the fact that our leaders are too petty to take steps to correct it. Here’s to hoping they come to their senses and humanity prevails soon.