Thursday, July 12, 2018

U.S. Immigration needs the wisdom of Solomon

7/4/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
"On the 4th of July, my patriotic heart 
beats red, white and blue.”

This quote (source unknown) pretty much sums up how I feel every year on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This year, as a proud American citizen, I am also saddened by the current asylum/immigration situation in our beloved country. It’s a mess. Our country was not prepared to deal with the thousands of people wanting to cross our borders illegally for work and family safety. We have never seen anything of this magnitude. The children situation is worthy of the wisdom of Solomon.

The Declaration of Independence (for the most part) does not address immigration. The document is profoundly basic: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. When this was written in 1776, it is estimated there were about 2.5 million people living in the 13 colonies. They probably never envisioned a nation of 327 million residents.

Illegal immigrants have always tested our entry rules but now we have a lot of unhappy U.S. citizens doing the same. The uproar is over the separation of illegal immigrant families. As I sat mulling over recent headlines, I wondered how our founding fathers would respond to this dilemma.  I also realized how little I know about immigration laws in the U.S. or other countries.

Before moving to Oregon, my husband and I were 50 year residents and business owners in Calif. We employed Mexican workers who were holders of green cards issued by the U.S. To be a resident and work in this country (legally) one needs a green card proving their identity and status. As employers, we knew that we would get in trouble if we hired illegal employees. They complied with the laws and so did we.

I haven’t thought much about green card holders and illegal immigration since moving to Oregon but suddenly, immigration is a hot news topic all over the world. Now, thousands of people from war-torn, gang ridden or famine situations are leaving their homelands and seeking refuge for safe living in other countries everywhere.

So, I Googled a few questions to gain a current perspective on immigration here and around the world. The top 10 countries accepting the most immigrants in 2015 were:
The United States, 1,051,000
Germany, 686,000
The United Kingdom, 378,800
Canada, 271,800
France, 256,500
Australia, 226,22
Spain, 194,900
Italy, 160,900
The Netherlands, 146,800
Switzerland, 131,000.

According to the US News, our 1,051,000 figure does not include migration to the U.S. by other means. We are the top country for immigration in the world. We are also the top refugee resettlement country with most refugees coming from Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan. Our foreign-born population is 13.3 percent.

Immigration deals with the transit of people across its borders but especially those that intend to work and stay in that country. Rules are different everywhere but always confusing. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) provides for the U.S., an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with some exceptions for close family members.

Legal immigrants to the U.S. number about 1,000,000 per year of whom about 600,000 are already in the U.S. The total legal immigrants living here are now at their highest level ever— just over 37 million. There are also about 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The American Immigration Council says that—both documented and undocumented—contribute billions of dollars in taxes every year.

If you are from a foreign country you must have a Permanent Resident or Green Card to live and work in the U.S. A green card is a photo ID permit that allows you to stay here as long as you want. You may also apply for a Social Security Number.

There is a difference between a green card and a visa. With a visa, your permanent residence is outside the U.S. It is a temporary pass for a specific period of time. In both visa and green cards, you remain the citizen of another country. Therefore, you do not have the rights of a U.S. citizen. i.e. to vote in elections, apply for a U.S. passport, etc. There are also serious consequences for criminal behavior.

There is so much more to say about this subject but these are the answers that helped me understand the basics of immigration. I could find no mandates to separate families. I hope this is as helpful to you as it has been to me as we go down this path of uncertainty.

Despite our problems, we are blessed to live in America. Together, like generations before us, we can work through the uncertainties of this era with grit and determination; respect for the law and different opinions while helping others and our country.

We can also pray for the wisdom of Solomon to enlighten us all in decision making. May God help us all!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox