Op Ed

Takedown: Deport Them All!

Full disclosure: I’m married to an immigrant. One who “did it right.” I guess that according to this week’s crapdate, he is marginalized by those who are here without documents, and I should probably be really angry. Why are they ruining it for us?

(But I’m not. Weird, right?)

And away we go:


Posting a crapdate like this doesn’t make you look smart, it makes you look like an asshole.

And the caption:

HERE IS SOMETHING THE MEDIA ALWAYS FORGETS WHEN THEY CALL ILLEGALS UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS…AND WHEN OBAMA DECIDED TO GRANT AMNESTY – Sneaking across someone’s sovereign border and usurping their laws does not make someone an immigrant…

it makes someone a deportable criminal!!!

Another thing it does is marginalize all those wonderful immigrants who respect our great country enough, who love it enough to want to come here LEGALLY. It does them a disservice to call those who think they can do whatever they want and snub their nose at our laws Immigrants, when they aren’t. Immigrants are great for america, illegal aliens are basically spitting on America and our laws. There is a difference. 

Click like if you agree that sneaking across the border illegally does not make someone an immigrant, it makes them a deportable criminal. America loves immigrants who come here LEGALLY AND WHO LOVE AMERICA, it does not, and should not welcome those who have no respect for our laws and the American way.

To begin, let’s talk about this “sneaking across the border” business. The reality is that almost half of America’s undocumented workers come here on a valid visa, and then stay longer than they are allowed. This image of criminals digging their way to the land of the free and the home of the brave is inaccurate. Many undocumented workers applied to be let in, were let in, and then didn’t go back on time. This CNN OpEd does a fantastic job of detailing why overstaying does not make a person “an illegal,” and if you have the chance, I highly recommend it.

A snippet:

When you label someone an “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” or just plain “illegal,” you are effectively saying the individual, as opposed to the actions the person has taken, is unlawful. The terms imply the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal.

In this country, there is still a presumption of innocence that requires a jury to convict someone of a crime. If you don’t pay your taxes, are you an illegal? What if you get a speeding ticket? A murder conviction? No. You’re still not an illegal. Even alleged terrorists and child molesters aren’t labeled illegals.

But that’s not what I want to talk about now. I want to use my own experience, as somebody who has lived abroad for many years, as somebody with family members who aren’t American, as somebody who has an advanced degree in a foreign culture and a life with one foot planted on another continent, to talk about why this crapdate is so stupid.

For many people, there is this idea that immigrating to the United States is akin to renewing your driver’s license. Sure, it’s annoying and you have to stand in line, and your $20 fee makes you grumble, and you post on Facebook how much you hate the DMV, but if you want to drive you give up the afternoon and you just suck it up.

To get my husband’s visa to America, after we were already married, we took a train all night to get to the capital city. We stood in line for 8 hours outside in below freezing temperatures. We paid $650, nonrefundable, and in order to prove that we were legitimate, we had to have already purchased tickets to America, even though there was no guarantee we would get the visa, $850 apiece – at the time, since we were living in his country, our combined salary was $250 a month. Imagine for a second paying the equivalent of half of your yearly gross salary for a chance to get to move. No guarantee, of course.

We had to provide incredibly personal documentation – love letters, e-mail exchanges, bank account information, cell phone records, Skype exchanges, pictures. It was humiliating. It continues to be humiliating, every time we have to do it; seven years later it is still an ongoing process.

And we had it easy. Marrying an American is, for many people, the only possibility to get here. This is why the mail-order bride industry exists, and why it is quite literally possible for westerners to buy a wife – because when people are desperate to leave their situation, and the only reasonable option is to marry somebody who happened to be born into a better economic situation, you do what you have to do. 10,000 women a year meet men through these agencies and marry a near stranger.

I want you to use your imagination again, because I’ve seen it happen, and I continue to be awestruck: you “meet” somebody on the Internet. You exchange letters for a few months, but you don’t speak the same language, so you know next to nothing about the person. You invite them to meet you in person. They arrive, and for a week, you live together, have sex (because that is a big part of it – a “trying out” period for the men), use a translator to whisper sweet nothings to each other, and then – pack your bags, move to another country where you don’t know a single person, don’t know the language, are 100% under the control of your new husband.

This situation is practically begging for something like this to happen:

Anastasia King, a young woman from Kyrgyzstan, was found strangled and buried in a shallow grave in Washington state in December 2000. At the age of 18, Anastasia had received an email from a 38-year-old Seattle man, Indle King, from a mail order bride website. He flew to her country and they were married soon after. Two years later, after considerable strife, Indle wanted another bride. He was allegedly unwilling to pay for a divorce so he ordered a tenant in their Washington home to kill Anastasia. Weighing nearly 300 pounds, her husband pinned Anastasia down while the tenant strangled her with a necktie. Both were convicted of murder.

Or something like this:

In the worst case scenario, the First World Husband assumes the role of a pimp, who takes away the bride’s passport and forces her into prostitution. At one extreme, the pimp may go so far as to undertake serial sponsorships of immigrant women to supply new recruits for prostitution rings. If this is the case, he will hold the bride in debt bondage because he paid for her to immigrate to North America, and then force her to participate in slavery-like practices in order to obtain her freedom.

These women aren’t stupid. They know the risks. And they do it anyway. Because it is one of the only ways that it is possible to get to America.

People will risk everything to come here legally. Nobody wants to be in a foreign country without papers. Every undocumented worker I’ve ever met has been desperately trying to get papers. It’s not like they thought, “Hmm, I feel like snubbing my nose at the government, I’m going to sneak across the border!”

Only a person who has never known desperation, and who is unwilling to accept the fact that they are incredibly lucky based solely on the geography of their birth would ignore this truth.

Because if you don’t get married?

My sister-in-law would like to come to America. She is hard-working, has excellent English, is educated, worked here for a year and returned, has proven herself to be an ideal candidate for immigration. But she is unwilling to go through a marriage agency. Even with a direct relative in America, the soonest we can get her here would be eight years from now, and we would have to invite my mother-in-law (who doesn’t necessarily want to be here, and is not nearly as good of a candidate as my sister-in-law), have her get her citizenship (which she doesn’t necessarily want), and then invite my sister-in-law.

And that’s with a brother in America.

If you don’t have a close relative in America, you can: apply for a job and hope they will pay for your visa. Let’s say you manage to do that, and you find a company willing to pay $10,000 for you (hey, some people get signing bonuses, especially in this economy, that kind of job is super easy to find, amirite?) – these visas are awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, and in 2009, all of the visas were snapped up in one day. You might hit the jackpot.

Or you might win the actual visa lottery. Odds are about 0.5%. If you don’t count the applications that are thrown out because they weren’t stapled the right way or had inconsistent transliterations of names or a million other reasons that can cause your application to be discarded.

The truth of the matter is that for the vast majority of people who want to live in America, it is just impossible. If you don’t have an immediate relative (spouse, parent, or child) who is a U.S. citizen, if you don’t have a million dollars to invest here, if you aren’t a prodigy that is so highly sought after that your company will pay $10K for you to get here and then get you one of a limited number of visas, it’s not a reality. You can work as hard as you want, but it won’t happen.

Even if the average salary where you live is $100 a month and you are literally watching your children starve. Even if your options for health care are to try not to go outside in winter and pray that nothing gets to you. Even if you work 60 hours a week for pennies, even if you know that your children will have it worse than you, even if you are watching your family members fall into alcoholism because that’s the only escape, even if each politician makes your life harder than the last one did, even if you turn on the TV and see American shows which constantly rub your nose in how fucking amazing life is in America for people who earned it by”¦ being born here.

The reason people are “snubbing” the laws is because they have no choice. They risk everything because that “legal route” that is so often trotted out is not possible for the overwhelming majority of people who want a chance at a better life.

And you know who understands that? Documented workers. Those who have immigrated legally, those who, by the logic in this crapdate should be really pissed off at undocumented workers, support undocumented workers. This lines up with every single immigrant I have ever met – they support those who are undocumented. Because they know that this illegal immigration is a last resort and an act of desperation. And they know that the “right way” is a matter of dumb luck.

I understand wanting to have consistent rules for immigration, and I understand feeling an urge to limit it, and I understand believing that there should be punishments for those without current documentation (I don’t agree, but I understand). What I absolutely cannot see is how anybody can look with such disdain upon people who are doing everything in their power to pull themselves out of a terrible situation, how anybody can be so blind to the privilege and nearly unfathomable inequalities that exist in the world.

Instead of patting themselves on the back and feeling so proud that they popped out of a vagina in Missouri instead of in Mexico City, by chance, maybe those who post this crapdate should think about how lucky they are, how unbelievably fortunate they have been through no act of their own, and have a little fucking empathy.


By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

6 replies on “Takedown: Deport Them All!”

Thank you, Susan. I’ve worked with many women here in the US on visas for either work or school, and until I met them, I had NO IDEA how hard it was to do things “the right way”.

I always think about the Statue of Liberty when “Immigration Reform” or whatever business comes up. I mean, really, the lengths that people go to get here, well, it should be humbling for all US Citizens. The other thing that gets me that such a large % of the US population is only a few generations removed from immigration themselves. My great-grandfather came here through Ellis Island. My great-grandmother & great-uncle waited in Scotland for him to earn enough money to come over in second-class pasage, so they could be spared the experience of steerage and Ellis Island. The fact that the very people who’ve benefitted from their ancestors making the same decisions as current-day immigrants are so snooty about current-day immigrants makes me want to throw up.

This was an incredible read, Susan. Certainly gives more insight into what goes on in terms of US immigration. To echo what others have said though, I’ve always found it odd how the US appears to view immigration given that it is a nation built on immigrants.

Even if the average salary where you live is $100 a month and you are literally watching your children starve. Even if your options for health care are to try not to go outside in winter and pray that nothing gets to you. Even if you work 60 hours a week for pennies, even if you know that your children will have it worse than you, even if you are watching your family members fall into alcoholism because that’s the only escape, even if each politician makes your life harder than the last one did, even if you turn on the TV and see American shows which constantly rub your nose in how fucking amazing life is in America for people who earned it by… being born here.

As a matter of interest that goes off on rather a tangent, with this paragraph, it wasn’t until the mention of America that I realised you weren’t talking about America.

I still can’t get over the fact that the USA have one of the strictest immigration policies in the world despite being a country based on immigration. It just blows my mind. I mean, I am all for people living wherever the hell they want to, but I can at least somewhat understand white Europeans who want to limit immigration – after all, at least it is “their” land they fear is taken away from them (which is stupid, of course). But I can’t understand how a non-Native USian can seriously talk about anyone coming into “their” country.

Very insightful.  Yes, the system needs to be revamped and regulated, but that takes time and money, and some people don’t want to spend the money.

That being said, it’s pretty funny that when the economy is bad or something terrible happens, all of a sudden people are up in arms about illegal immigration and how the entire group of (insert ethnic group here) are to blame for whatever the trouble is.  It’s happened quite a bit in American history, and people fail to recognize that.

THANK YOU.  This is so good.  I worked in immigration law for three years, and every time I hear someone talking about “going to the back of the line” I want to scream.  There is no goddamn line.  There’s a lot of luck, and a few lines that you have to meet demanding standards to get into, but there isn’t “the line.”  Like you said, for most people it’s impossible.  And even if you can find a way to immigrate legally, it’s freakishly expensive and difficult.  Having worked in this area of law, I know.  I always felt guilty about how much we charged people, but honestly it’s not like I was getting paid that much as a paralegal, or my firms were raking it in either, because we worked hard and the payment wasn’t out of whack with the value.  I still recommend to everyone who asks me about immigration issues that they consult a lawyer, because even if they’re expensive (they are,) it’s better than going through it all and ending up nowhere because you forgot to put “N/A” in a box and left it blank instead.

I also appreciate you pointing out that undocumented immigrants usually do come here as a last resort.  It SUCKS to be undocumented in this country.  It’s scary, you could end up in jail for what is a civil, not criminal, infraction, you could be separated from your family without every committing any crime.  It’s a terrible place to be, and almost nobody goes into it without feeling like they have to.

Nargh. My boyfriend is one of the people who wants to go work for an American company (they asked!) and indeed, the fastest option was a ten month wait. And at least they’re paying it for him (how it looks like now, anyway). Me, if I’m not married to him by then, can wave him goodbye every three months.

I understand that this needs to be regulated. Where people are, you need regulations. Where you need regulations for people, you need to remember there is no one fit. This is once again a lazy take. If you don’t want to do your research, shut up about something.

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