Why do so many people attempt to enter the U.S. illegally? The answer is not just that this is a desirable country to live in. That doesn’t explain why, for example, so many Mexicans risk their lives crossing a desert on foot rather than getting a proper visa. Why not come here legally?
I asked this question of a very nice man who has worked at a store in my neighborhood for years, and came to this country by risking his life walking through the Mexican desert. (The trick to survival, he said, is to cross in winter when it’s cooler.) Why did he do it? The answer is simple – there’s no way he could have gotten a visa. Coming here legally was not one of his options.
- Poor people looking for opportunity cannot get visas to enter the U.S.
- Desperate people fleeing persecution cannot get visas to enter the U.S.
If you’re educated and have a job waiting for you at a big American company, you can get a visa. But if you’re a poor Mexican who wants to come to this country for the opportunity it offers for education and advancement, forget it. If your life is in danger in your home country, you can die waiting for permission to enter the U.S.
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is inscribed with a lovely poem that begins:
Give me your tired, your poor…
That was America’s attitude when my great grandfather arrived at Ellis Island in 1907, but it’s false advertising today. Today, America’s motto seems to be:
Give me your best and brightest. If you’re tired and poor, KEEP OUT!
So what I’d like to know is, why has immigration criteria changed so drastically, and why do policymakers never talk about it? You hear debates on walls and amnesty, and everyone seems to agree that illegal immigration should be stopped. But you never hear discussion of the oppressive visa-granting criteria that drives illegal immigration in the first place.
Somewhere along the line, America changed. We went from being a haven for the downtrodden and persecuted, to a clique that only the privileged and elite can join. Is this the kind of country we want?