Immigration protests obscuring the issue?

Reading the Chronicle this morning, I couldn’t help but think that the connection between these two stories – Thousands gather at Houston’s Memorial Park and Woman Sentenced in Houston Smuggling Case – is being ignored. Racism and xenophobia are not the only reasons to oppose illegal immigration, though they are certainly fueling the fire in recent events.

While the debate has swirled around issues of border security, policing and assimilation, I’ve heard very little reasonable discussion of immigration policy.

The question I keep asking myself is this – what is so wrong with the immigration process that so many people risk their own lives and the lives of their children to subvert it? and if the alternative is rampant people-trafficking, who is the system really serving? I’m not asking rhetorically. I really want to know. If anyone has experience in the actual process (legal immigrants, lawyers, gov’t officials) I would love to hear real-life takes on legal immigration – what it costs, how long it takes, what the hurdles are, etc.

4 Comments so far

  1. sarah (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2006 @ 12:20 pm

    My best friend recently married someone from England after traveling down a loooong, and expensive road.

    I’ll see if I can get her to post a few details here…

  2. pakman (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 10:19 am

    One of the biggest reasons people resort to illegal ways of immigration is the archaic, ridiculous, and frustratlingly long legal immigration process.
    I am an engineer with a Master’s degree and have been trying to get legal immigration via the H1-B route working for a Fortune 100 corp. for more than 5 years with still no end in sight.

    The DOL process is a joke, the BCIS doesnt have enough staffing or immigrant visa numbers to be effective thus creating a massive logjam of hundreds of thousands of potential “legal” immigrants in limbo.
    If you guys really want to fix the illegal morass, fix the legal immigration system!

  3. kimberly (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    my name is kimberly, and i am the best friend mentioned by sarah. i did, indeed, just marry my boyfriend of 4 years after he LEGALLY immigrated to the united states from the united kingdom. i have no reservations about sharing our experience with immigration. i will try and be as informative as possible about the steps, without making this 9 pages long.

    first, someone who legally lives in the US as a citizen or permanent resident must petition on behalf of the immigrant. this can be an employer or a relative, but in our case this was me, a fiance. the petitioner submits a fee ($170.00), forms, copies of personal documents, financial information, and evidence of relationship with the immigrant. then this processes in the system for anywhere from 6 weeks to years depending on which office in the US takes your case…it’s state by state. it took 8 months for us to get an approval.

    next, given that your petition is approved and no other forms are needed, the immigrant submits forms, a fee ($120.00), personal information, photos, criminal records, etc. to the nearest US consulate in his/her country. another waiting period of anywhere from 2 weeks to months. we waited 6 weeks.

    then, the immigrant has a medical examine ($140.00) with a specified doctor and interviews with an officer at the consulate (take into consideration most must pay travel and hotel to do this part of the process). if everything is correctly in order and no criminal convictions or problems are evident, the immigrant gets a visa ($65.00). then, they have 6 months to move to the US.

    when you arrive at the airport, they will process your visa forms and stamp your passport. we waited 3 hours in a holding room at the airport for this. then, you have a time limit of 3 months to 9 months in which you must follow any stipulations on your visa, because your visa will expire (ie: get a job, get married). then you apply to adjust your status from visa-holder to permanent resident (greencard holder). this is more fees ($395.00), tons of forms and waiting. during this time you can not work…you get your work clearance ($170.00) separate. this is where we are now, having just been married and submitted our adjustment. now we wait 3 months to 2 years for another interview for him to get his greencard and TEMPORARY residency. then, after a year, he must renew his greencard and apply for PERMANENT residency. then after 5 more years, he can apply for citizenship if he wishes. so, no end in sight yet.

    the forms are confusing and lengthy. someone could easily fill them out wrong, causing a delay. we hired a lawyer to avoid this, which was pricey. and, in the end we still had some confusion because even the lawyer misunderstood some things. the entire cost of fees, copies, and mailing, without the lawyer is around $1200.00. in my opinion, no one who chose to go the illegal way with immigration can complain about having problems. no matter how daunting the law is, they broke with it. however, the system is very guilty of being way too bogged down and confusing. change needs to start with the process itself. i believe it truly is intimidating and encourages people to dodge it if they can…especially those who do not speak english, are poor, and/or may not be educated enough to fill out all these documents correctly. i had no idea what we were getting into with this and i have been emotionally drained by it all. i left a lot of details out and this was still very long, and i am sure, confusing. just think about living in it.

    the forums, charts, and guides at have been a great help to us.


  4. Luke Gilman (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 12:22 pm

    Great comments folks. Just the kind of information I was feeling had been left out of the debate. I would still love to hear from someone on the inside of the immigration process.

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