By Robert A. Ratliff Special to the Press-Register | Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012 | Source: Blog.Al.com
Whenever I meet people and they learn that I am an immigration attorney, they always ask me this question: “Why don’t they just come legally like our ancestors did?”
The “they” in that question is often undefined. Do the questioners mean the babies and young children brought here by their parents and who know no other way of life?
Do they mean the hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans who arrived here on temporary work visas and just stayed?
Or do they mean the men and women fleeing Haiti who for political reasons do not receive the same benefits as Cubans who come to this country?
Regardless of who “they” are, the question reflects two basic misunderstandings about our immigration law and the history of our country.
- First, what is the legal process today?
Our immigration law is a complex set of rules and regulations. We invite for immigration primarily two groups of people: those who are sponsored by an employer, and those with immediate family already legally present in the country.
Work-related visas are generally reserved to those with a high level of education or other skill. For unskilled workers, the wait can be years.
Family categories can be worse. The current wait for the brother or sister of a United States citizen from the Philippines is 23 years. The unmarried son or daughter of a legal permanent resident from Mexico must wait 20 years.