March 15, 2018
I am an alien. An alien (noun) is a person who lives in a country but is not a citizen. Not to be confused with alien (adjective) meaning “unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful,” though America seems to confuse the two definitions fairly often.
I was born in Canada and legally immigrated to the United States in 2008. the 6-hour drive from my birthplace in Winnipeg, Manitoba to my current home of Plymouth, Minnesota might seem like a pretty simple journey, but I can assure you that it was anything but simple.
The immigration process is much more than just packing your bags and grabbing the next available flight.
First, the only way you can enter the U.S. with plans to reside is if you have a family or promised employment and are offered a visa. My family received their visas on the basis of my Dad who was offered a job by an American company for his expertise in his occupation.
There, are of course, more temporary ways to enter like a student visa or a visitor visa.
According to NBC News, a majority of illegal immigrants are not people who enter the country illegally, but people that enter on legal temporary visas and overstay their time frame.
Next, the Green Card/citizenship process takes its course. A Green Card, more formally known as a permit for permanent residency, is an immigration status that allows for permanent work and living in the United States. A Green Card must be sponsored by an employer or family member with a Green Card. In some special cases it can be sponsored on your own. This sponsorship can leave immigrants dependent on companies that may try to take advantage of their situation or may decide to slow or stop the Green Card process for their employee. Green Card waiting periods are on the basis of the country that the primary applicant was born in.
This means that even though my family consists of all Canadian citizens and I was born in Canada, the primary applicant, my father, was born in India, therefore, we waited in the Indian Nationals waiting period.
According to Forbes, this waiting period is about 10 years for visa-holders for employment purposes for people from India, China, Philippines, and Mexico, but only a few years for visa-holders of other origins. The waiting period for family sponsored visa-holders from the above-listed countries is on average 15-20 years.
Though there is truth to the statement that immigrants can fill American occupations, it is only after the company actively seeks them out and wants to sponsor their permit of residency in the United States.
Chain migration consists of a cycle of sponsoring family members into the United States. Proponents say that this helps build our nation of immigrants, while opponents say it can threaten our national security. There are per country caps, however, on how many extended family members can be brought. Each member must go through 5-20 years of screening to get approval, according to the Center for Immigration Studies
The ethnic cap ensures that each country has no more than seven percent of issued visas in a fiscal year, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This ensures that there is no prominent immigrant ethnicity at any one time.
Five years after receiving the Green Card, immigrants can apply to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America and receive the benefits that they waited years for. Even after this draining process, the final step seems to be the hardest: assimilation.
For me, the hardest part of being an immigrant, so far, has been the college process. Though I have lived in Minnesota for 10 years, a majority of my life, I am considered an international applicant.
This means that I need to fill out a variety of extra forms, deal with drastically lower acceptance rates, and cope with a lack of financial aid at most institutions. Some schools even mandate an English proficiency exam for all international applicants and contacted me about taking one. I’m Canadian, we speak English.
The lack of financial aid was annoying, especially because I can’t even legally hold an occupation in the US without a college degree.
A few select schools have fairly helpful policies for undocumented DACA students, but none for legal visa-holders. I found this frustrating until I realized that this process that I was going through was about a hundred times worse for kids that were raised primarily in America but were still denied their rights of an education, constantly under threat of deportation and other immigration issues. The numerous struggles faced is what we need to try to understand about immigration as a country.
All throughout years of waiting time, these immigrants must pay taxes,are prohibited from doing basic rights of citizens like voting in School Board elections, and are without proper social security. Immigrants are future patriots, some of the strongest even, as people who waited half their lives to be treated as equals in this country.
Once I was naturalized, I proudly stood under the flag of this country that was built by immigrants. It’s time to stop shifting the blame of our country’s problems from immigrants and start to fix this long and broken immigration system to make legal immigration easier and safer for our country.
On Being a Child of Two Soviet Russian Immigrants
There is no such thing as mediocrity or failure. There is no such thing as depression or anxiety. They don’t realize that when your parents give you a good life, you have no other choice but to excel every expectation while your own needs and wants don’t matter.
They don’t realize that your problems are not really problems since they are not as bad as the problems your parents faced. You are not allowed to be upset, and no matter what, you can’t give up because your parents worked too hard.
They don’t realize that you need to get to a breaking point before your parents understand something is wrong.
You will never feel like you belong even after so many years. The children at school will judge you for your cultural differences and throw holocaust jokes at you once they learn you are a Jew. They don’t realize that it is embarrassing to hear your parents speak English in public with that thick accent when you are a child, and the way they act differently than the rest of the American parents.
They don’t realize that while you try to appreciate your background, fulfill your expectations, and respect your parents: there is no room left for yourself.
“Portrait of a Raramuri Man”
A Face of DACA
Rosie Gomez came to the United States from San Luis Potosi, Mexico when she was six years old. According to Gomez, they overstayed their Visa for an American education and to learn English.
“We figured out ways to stay under the radar,” said Gomez. “If my family ever got stopped, my dad was my uncle.”
Gomez’s older brother, Oscar Gomez, began lawn mowing for a man he met through Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minnesota, due to the increasing difficulty to find jobs without perfect paperwork, according to Gomez.
“Before DACA, I wasn’t even planning on going to college,” said Gomez. “When you’re not legally documented you can’t apply for FAFSA or most scholarships.”
Gomez was accepted to Bemidji State University, but had to no resources to pursue her dreams.
“I took over my brother’s lawn mowing job to earn some money, and one day he told me to come over because I broke the lawnmower. I was nervous that I might’ve lost the job, but when I got there, he informed me that he was going to finance my college education,” said Gomez.
In 2012, the DACA program was introduced by the Obama administration. According to Gomez, this began a four to six months process of paperwork preparation.
“We had to gather money, meet with lawyers, and gather evidence of our U.S. existence,” said Gomez. “My family and I tore up our house looking for the littlest of things, even certificates from elementary school.”
According to Gomez, the process to apply was vigorous, involving questions ranging from thoughts about homicide to intentions to become a terrorist.
Both Gomez and her brother Oscar were approved for the program, according to Gomez. “It was surreal to get a social security card with my name on it, something I have always dreamed about.”
This sparked motivation into Gomez to finish school and begin a new chapter in her life as a “normal person.”
“We finally got to do things that most people take for granted, like going into a store and asking for a work application,” said Gomez.
After graduating from Bemidji State, Gomez got a job as a registered nurse at Methodist Hospital in July of 2016.
In the 2016 presidential election, one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to end DACA.
“I had just started work a couple of months ago, and I felt like my life had just begun,” said Gomez. “When Trump was elected president, it felt like it was being taken away.”
According to Gomez, it was difficult to conversate with coworkers and patients who didn’t care, when to her, it was her entire life.
Gomez, like other DACA beneficiaries was given only a month to gather materials to renew, when it can normally take upwards of three. Gomez’s permit was renewed until October of 2019, but she attributes this to her stable job and supportive family, who many do not have.
“A lot of people were afraid,” said Gomez. “With DACA applications, the government already has all the information they need to come find us. Many people did not want to submit this information again.”
Gomez emphasizes many people didn’t fit the criteria for renewal, describing it as depending on how the government is feeling.
“The media tries to clump together DACA beneficiaries together into people taking advantage of the system, but many didn’t have a choice,” said Gomez. “I was a six-year-old and following my parents. I didn’t have a choice.”
According to Gomez, you will go crazy if you think about it; it will consume your life. The littlest things such as buying a new kitchen pan are accompanied by thoughts such as: Will I even be here to use it?
“No one would leave their home country to deal with racism and not knowing how to provide for their kids for nothing. We came for a reason,” said Gomez.
“I wish people would get to know us, get to know me,” said Gomez. “They don’t know I am a nurse. They don’t know I’m taking care of their grandparents.”