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The Immigration Situation – It’s Nuts!

The Immigration Situation – It’s Nuts!

When Mayor Eric Adams made his statement about immigrants ruining NYC, I found myself realizing that I haven’t been tuned in to the immigration situation in the US. I have always felt, very strongly, that the US benefits from immigrants in a myriad of ways. They are a source of cheap labor in agriculture, construction, AND… health care. The joke that is no joke is that you can hire Mexicans to do just about anything by driving down to Home Depot in the morning to pick them up. There is no minimum wage when it comes to farm work, and immigrants take care of and bring in crops all over the country. Immigrants are doctors, nurses and certified nurse aides, caring for us, caring for our elderly, when we can’t – or won’t – do it ourselves.

Immigrants are frequently the best of us. Think about what each of them has done to get here. Whether they waited at home for a call from the consulate, or waited in refugee camps because their country had been ravaged by war, or they crossed a border legally, or illegally, all of them left their homes to come here, many of them have struggled to learn English – which is a damned confusing language to learn – and all of them are convinced that they will find a way to make a life here for themselves and their children, doing whatever it takes, with whatever skills they have.

And that is my theoretical, humanistic, isolated view. Because I am not living in a city that Texas Governor Abbott decided to bus immigrants to. There are no immigrants camped on my streets or my park. I am not worried that an immigrant will take my job. I do not see them living 10 in a house next door to me with trucks and cars all over the front yard, dropping my property values. There are no Mexican gangs anywhere near me that I know of. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a classroom with children who cannot speak English. Or to try to interact with parents who don’t speak English. So I can hold onto my lofty views, unlike Eric Adams, whose city is going bankrupt from the bused immigrants.

We are a country of 330 million people, and 13% of us are immigrants. In 2021, 1.5 million people came to the US legally. We also have another 3% of the country that are here illegally. But it’s important to know how that happens. When people think of illegal immigrants, they think “illegal border crossings” and right now we have thousands of people illegally crossing the border every day. But! since 2010, over 60% of all illegal immigrants in the US are those who are here on expired visas. They got a travel visa, or a student visa, or even a work visa, coming to America for a brief period of time… and then they just stayed. They work, they have driver’s licenses, they buy homes, they pay taxes… they’re just not supposed to be here. We tend not to deport them unless they are misbehaving.

So, what exactly is going on at the border? Trump used COVID to restrict border crossings in 2020. Biden changed the immigration laws in May 2023. Under Biden’s new laws, there was a path to fast-track an asylum request, by setting up the appointment by phone. If you have an appointment, you get to cross. The asylum seekers are coming from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela. But if you don’t have an appointment or a visa, you are turned back.

I need to take a detour and talk about Venezuela. Venezuela is an oil-producing country and for many years, its president used the money to finance the needs of the people… and line his pockets. But, due to mismanagement, oil production dropped, and, well, the Venezuelan economy collapsed. The inflation rate jumped by 800%, 94% of the population lived in poverty, 76% in extreme poverty, unable to afford food. Moreover, food is scarce in Venezuela as is medicine. As a result, people are leaving. Since 2015, over 7 million people have left Venezuela, settling all over Latin America. And a percentage of them are coming to the United States, seeking asylum.

And what is up with the buses? The buses have asylum seekers. Right now, about 8,000 immigrants are crossing the border every day. Many of them already have somewhere to go. They have families, friends, connections. They have a bus ticket or plane ticket out of Texas to a new home where people are waiting for them. But not the new asylum seekers. They do not know anyone in the US, there is no network that will absorb them. These are the people who are getting buses to the Northern \”sanctuary\” cities whose mayors pledged to welcome immigrants back in 2019. But this is 2023. No one anticipated the thousands who would come, and resources are strained, but there is another big reason. When asylum seekers come to America, they are \”stranded\”.

Before September 21st, an asylum seeker could not get a work visa for 6 months. In my mind, that has to be the dumbest law imaginable. These people want to work. They want to find homes, become a part of society, take care of their families. They are not happy to live in tents and shelters in NYC when it is about to get cold. Although this is the law and only Congress can change it, Biden has circumvented the law to allow the Venezuelan asylum seekers to immediately apply for work visas. It is hoped that this will address the problem in New York City. But it does nothing for the Cubans, Nicaraguans, or Haitians.

To say that immigration is going to be a major platform issue in the 2024 presidential election is an understatement. Republicans are already pressuring Biden to “Close the Border” and there are Democrats who agree. But those of us who are humanitarians want to find other solutions. Immigrants are people, not problems. If the policies are problems, let’s figure out how to fix them.

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