Can we say “Ellis Islands, West?”

Big Lizard has a terrific post in which he wonders why none of the hardliner, “ship ‘em all back – illegal is illegal” bloggers are so disinterested in the nightmarish hoops people must jump through in order to come here legally, and how necessary is real immigration reform is in this country. He writes eloquently, and you must read his whole post. Here is an excerpt:

Sachi

My wife was a legal immigrant; she jumped through all the hoops, did everything by the book. She got a green card; she went through the whole citizenship procedure, satisfying every requirement save one: her swearing-in ceremony.

Along the way, she was bullied, threatened, shouted at, belittled, insulted, and once made to wait from 3:30 am on the sidewalk outside the INS… only to be told at 9:00 that they were only seeing twenty people that day. She was number 27 — and there was a very long line behind her. (I waited with her that day; she had to forcibly restrain me from strangling the moron who didn’t bother putting a sign up the night before.)

But in the end, she satisfied all the requirements and needed only to be sworn in… and they simply wouldn’t give her an appointment…she had been here for years and years, she spoke excellent English, she was perfectly legal. They just didn’t give her an appointment… for years.

It finally took the direct intervention of our then Republican representative to finally get the damned INS to set a date for her to get sworn in; she went, raised her hand, and finally became an American.

Please don’t brush this off by saying, “oh, the government is always bureaucratic.” This goes far beyond mere bureaucracy into despicable abuse.

Takao
I’ve told the story of our friend Takao here several times. He came from Japan legally, but the most he could get was a work visa. He lived here, worked here — all legally — paid his taxes, bought a condo and a car, had health and auto insurance, learned English, got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from an American university, never got in the least bit of trouble with the law… yet in all that time, he was never even able to get a green card.

Not in sixteen years.

He hired an American attorney, but it made no difference. No matter what forms he filed, the INS simply never bothered responding, beyond sending a receipt of the filing. They never told him what he lacked, what he had to do, why he couldn’t get a green card.

That is because there was no reason: there is no reason why some breeze right through in five years; no reason why others get stuck in a holding pattern for three times as long.

In the end, Takao was laid off from the Japanese hotel where he had worked for so long; it was shortly after 9/11, and Japanese were afraid to travel to America… so the hotel got into financial trouble and had to lay off many workers.

Takao’s work visa specified that hotel; he filled out the forms for the INS to apply for another job. Instead of granting it — they ordered him home… that’s it, sayonara, it’s been a slice having you.

Because he would not break the law, he found himself on an airplane back to Narita Airport…He still hopes that someday, he will be able to come here as a permanent resident.
[...]
There is no rhyme or reason, no logic why one is waved through at a trot while another is thrown to the ground and made to crawl. It’s entirely random — or worse, the caprice of the interviewer — who gets a pass and whose paperwork is lost for two and a half years on somebody’s desk, with nobody at the INS (now the USCIS — same car, different plastic) caring enough even to go look for it.

The system is entirely arbitrary. It is the most unpredictable agency in the United States government, except in one respect: immigrants are routinely treated like animals. That they can expect.

People are told what is happening; people are told what they need to do. People are treated with respect, even when they have to fill out eighty-five forms in triplicate.

Immigrants, legal immigrants, are not people… not as far as Immigration is concerned.
[...]
…simply to have a system where someone who follows every law scrupulously can actually be told what he must do to become a permanent resident and eventually a citizen. For God’s sake, even a horse is taught what commands it must obey; it doesn’t have to guess.


Big Lizard is quite right
, and I has have written previously, there are plenty of people living and working here whose green cards or visas expired and who, encountering the quite broken INS, made the choice that to rip their established lives to shreds (particularly if they had children) in order to obey a corrupt and ineffective, floundering bureaucracy have made an understandable choice. “Illegal is illegal” might sound good, but it does not acknowledge the fact that our INS is irretrievably broken and unwilling or unable to look at these human beings and see human beings. And lots of hardliners have stopped seeing the human beings in this issue, too.

I got lots of hate mail for this post of mine but no one ever addressed this part of the piece:

Aside from the legal and moral ramifications of trying to “round them all up -” I got out of the car thinking, are they forgetting that we are talking about human beings, here? Many of whom have been here for years, initially through legal means, and who have created lives? People with lives and families who – like how they got here or not – are HERE and are mostly contributing to society in positive ways? Honestly, the folks on the radio sounded extremely narrow and over-the-top. The humanity of the illegals seemed as unmentionable to them as the humanity of a baby-in-utero is to a feminist.

No one ever addressed this part, either:

70 or 80 years ago, my own ancestors were coming in, legally, and learned to hang drywall and fix automobiles and fight fires. Yes, they were legal…the nation had well-run, functional programs to handle a huge influx. Had such a program not been in place, they would have come, anyway…and they would have been illegal!

I wonder why it is that we do not, today have a well-run, functional immigration program to handle the huge influx of people who wish to live here. Why aren’t we WORKING on creating such a program? Why isn’t that part of any immigration bill – the reform of the INS?

We’re going to need our immigrants as the boomers retire and weigh heavy on our SocSec system and their children barely reproduce at replacement levels. Why can’t we bring back the idea of Ellis Island – create an Ellis Island West (or “Islands”) of strategically-placed processing centers, so to speak — which would prevent the “illegality” of our immigrants?

That might be helpful, you know? Make ‘em legal, get ‘em paying taxes…Sure, some people called my grandfather a “filthy wop” and my other grandfather a “lazy mick” and they bitched because the carousel at Coney Island suddenly played Italian hurdy-gurdy instead of genteel songs from the gay 90’s, but everyone adjusted. The nation grew stronger.

And please don’t give me Rush’s lines about how the country cannot absorb so many immigrants, or that it will either lower or raise standard wages. Rush loves supply and demand when it suits him, and our economy is surging and so strong – strengthened by tax cuts and the resulting increase in tax revenues – that we don’t have enough workers. The nation is already absorbing her immigrants, and I can’t imagine why suddenly the idea of an increased tax base is anathema to so many. Let’s get the illegal Irish over in Southhampton and Montauk into the tax base, too, while we’re at it, because guess what, folks, thousands of ‘em come in every year, and they’re not going home, either. Although I don’t hear any complaining about it.

I have written about some of the illegals who go to my church, who have lived here for many years, established themselves as best they have been able, have learned English, worked hard – they haven’t complied with the broken INS system, but they have become as model citizens as they might be under the circumstances. They come to church each week with mannerly children, impeccably turned out – the father is at daily mass every morning, and every day before he leaves for work he prostrates himself before the Tabernacle. Yeah…he should just be shipped back. Illegal is illegal and that’s all that matters. But what am I saying? I forgot, I’m a Catholic, I can’t be credible on this issue, because all we Catholics care about are asses in the pews and money in the collection basket.

No normalization, no reasonable examination of a person and his life and his circumstances…no plea bargaining…“no excuses, illegal is illegal…ship them all back…” might sound pithy, moral and right to some. But it is offering no solutions beyond a fence – it considers no reform. Some of these high-minded moralists betray something in themselves when they write – as some have in the ‘sphere, all their principals really demand is the “rounding up and shipping out” of millions of people, the disruption of established families, a wall and a guard standing a post with a loaded rifle.

In some ways
the breezy categorizing and dismissing of the human beings involved in all of this sadly brings to mind these Phelps disasters who see only “fags” and “fag enablers sinning away grace and messing with the wrong God.”

President Bush has not forgotten that we are talking about human beings, here and his “base” is all-too-eager-and-willing to kick him in the teeth for it. But he is on the side of the angels on this, and not for the first time.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • stephanie

    Amen, Anchoress. The immigration system is in bad need of fixing.

  • stephanie

    Amen, Anchoress. The immigration system is in bad need of fixing.

  • http://yargb.blogspot Terrye

    I agree. My people cam here before there was illegal or legal immigration, and they would have come no matter what. This country was settled by people who were brave enough to make the voyage. That was all that was required.

    I hear that the House will not even consider a compromise. After inisisting we deal with this socalled crisis they have decided to kill the whole thing. Their way or the highway. I voted for Bush and I respect him. I think he tries to look to the long term. But I am very disappointed in some Republicans. They seem bound and determined to bring life to every sterotype about right wing zealots out there.

    I never expected them to accept the Senate bill as it was, but I was foolish enough to hope they were serious and sincere enough about dealing with the problem to make a good faith effort. Instead they wait until Bush left the country and then they stabbed him in the back.

    I was listening to NPR this morning and the liberal reporters were loving this, especially the Bushbashing part of it all. Another defeat for Bush, they said.

    And ofcourse the illegals can tolerate the status quo for awhile longer and that is what they got.

    So it seems that Hastert and his friends at least made somebody happy.

    It seems to me that both parties have become prisoners of their fringe groups. And the rest of the country is suffering for it.

    As a matter of fact most of the Congressman being the most obnoxious about this were in office long before Bush got there. What did they ever do to deal with the borders or the broken immigration system in all those years they served?

  • http://yargb.blogspot Terrye

    I agree. My people cam here before there was illegal or legal immigration, and they would have come no matter what. This country was settled by people who were brave enough to make the voyage. That was all that was required.

    I hear that the House will not even consider a compromise. After inisisting we deal with this socalled crisis they have decided to kill the whole thing. Their way or the highway. I voted for Bush and I respect him. I think he tries to look to the long term. But I am very disappointed in some Republicans. They seem bound and determined to bring life to every sterotype about right wing zealots out there.

    I never expected them to accept the Senate bill as it was, but I was foolish enough to hope they were serious and sincere enough about dealing with the problem to make a good faith effort. Instead they wait until Bush left the country and then they stabbed him in the back.

    I was listening to NPR this morning and the liberal reporters were loving this, especially the Bushbashing part of it all. Another defeat for Bush, they said.

    And ofcourse the illegals can tolerate the status quo for awhile longer and that is what they got.

    So it seems that Hastert and his friends at least made somebody happy.

    It seems to me that both parties have become prisoners of their fringe groups. And the rest of the country is suffering for it.

    As a matter of fact most of the Congressman being the most obnoxious about this were in office long before Bush got there. What did they ever do to deal with the borders or the broken immigration system in all those years they served?

  • TheAnchoress

    Terry, I agree with everything you wrote, especially: I never expected them to accept the Senate bill as it was, but I was foolish enough to hope they were serious and sincere enough about dealing with the problem to make a good faith effort. Instead they wait until Bush left the country and then they stabbed him in the back.…and everything you wrote before and after that! :-)

  • TheAnchoress

    Terry, I agree with everything you wrote, especially: I never expected them to accept the Senate bill as it was, but I was foolish enough to hope they were serious and sincere enough about dealing with the problem to make a good faith effort. Instead they wait until Bush left the country and then they stabbed him in the back.…and everything you wrote before and after that! :-)

  • smmtheory

    I don’t think anything will be done to fix immigration law until enough grass roots people tell their Congress critters that it’s broke and it better be fixed pronto. It is unfortunately not a high priority to the average U.S. citizen, and it wasn’t back when the bad law was written that broke the system in the first place. The far right isolationists are the only ones raising a stink about, and the far left anarchists figure laws are made to be broken. The people who don’t seem to have an opinion either way either aren’t affected by it, or have adapted to the brokenness of the law by rationalizing their way around it. We lonely few who want a just system to replace the broken system ain’t got no heft. It’s rather discouraging.

  • smmtheory

    I don’t think anything will be done to fix immigration law until enough grass roots people tell their Congress critters that it’s broke and it better be fixed pronto. It is unfortunately not a high priority to the average U.S. citizen, and it wasn’t back when the bad law was written that broke the system in the first place. The far right isolationists are the only ones raising a stink about, and the far left anarchists figure laws are made to be broken. The people who don’t seem to have an opinion either way either aren’t affected by it, or have adapted to the brokenness of the law by rationalizing their way around it. We lonely few who want a just system to replace the broken system ain’t got no heft. It’s rather discouraging.

  • http://truthhope.net kipwatson

    To suggest deporting 10+ million people, some of whom have lived in America for decades, is completely off the planet. It would never happen, and the people suggesting it know that, which makes them unserious blowhards. Pathetic.

    (What is this, 1945?)

    Meanwhile, however, millions of people are prey to criminals and ‘in the shadows’ (Bush’s words) in a really horrible way.

    Also, your country, having dangled temptation under the noses of its impoverished neighbours and made it perfectly clear to them that no one will stop them migrating illegally, is morally culpable for their actions. In legal terms, America would be a co-conspirator.

    Of course you as a Christian see that — all Christians should.

  • http://truthhope.net kipwatson

    To suggest deporting 10+ million people, some of whom have lived in America for decades, is completely off the planet. It would never happen, and the people suggesting it know that, which makes them unserious blowhards. Pathetic.

    (What is this, 1945?)

    Meanwhile, however, millions of people are prey to criminals and ‘in the shadows’ (Bush’s words) in a really horrible way.

    Also, your country, having dangled temptation under the noses of its impoverished neighbours and made it perfectly clear to them that no one will stop them migrating illegally, is morally culpable for their actions. In legal terms, America would be a co-conspirator.

    Of course you as a Christian see that — all Christians should.

  • http://karig.net/ Aitch748

    It’s amazing to me. International A.N.S.W.E.R. makes sure that the May 1 protests prominently featured several thousand rabblerousers carrying signs telling white folks to get the hell off the Mexicans’ continent — and suddenly illegal immigration is a huge monstrous problem that has to be tackled RIGHT NOW. Suddenly allowing Mexicans who didn’t go through the INS to become U.S. citizens, through ANY PATH AT ALL that does not involve deportation, no matter how much we ask of the immigrant in return, is “amnesty” and therefore an abomination. In fact, it now turns out that “amnesty” is such a gigantic republic-dissolving space-and-time-warping obscenity that it’s better to let all those Aztlan-sign-bearers continue to come into the country than to let anyone of even the highest character become a citizen if he doesn’t have his papers in order. “Amnesty,” as it has come to be defined, is such a poisonous idea to some people that when President Bush gave his speech addressing the illegal immigration problem not too long ago, some on the Right decided that Bush had jumped the shark and was now a traitor to his country. People were vowing to stay home in November, even at the possible cost of allowing Democrats to take over Congress. (I believe Ann Coulter made some crack to the effect that if the Dems win, then the impeachment of Bush over illegal immigration would make a fine consolation prize.)
    .
    And now the GOP-controlled House has decided that the Senate bill, infested with “amnesty” as it is, is basically plutonium, so it’s better to do nothing this year than to pass the bill. Yessir, by God, this year we’re going to do nothing about the problem that had us all so spooked less than two months ago, a problem so horrible that people on the Right were considering throwing Bush and the Republicans under the train if the problem wasn’t fixed. But no, I guess we don’t need to do anything about the issue after all. Sooooo sorry to have gotten so riled up over the issue for the past few months. We’re just going to let the problem continue to fester for the rest of the year. But we’ll do something after the election — cross our hearts and hope to die, REALLY we will.
    .
    All this because the idea of allowing people who committed a misdemeanor in getting into this country, people who are already working, to become U.S. citizens without deporting them first is an idea that (to many on the Right) absolutely cannot be tolerated under any circumstances whatsoever.

  • http://karig.net/ Aitch748

    It’s amazing to me. International A.N.S.W.E.R. makes sure that the May 1 protests prominently featured several thousand rabblerousers carrying signs telling white folks to get the hell off the Mexicans’ continent — and suddenly illegal immigration is a huge monstrous problem that has to be tackled RIGHT NOW. Suddenly allowing Mexicans who didn’t go through the INS to become U.S. citizens, through ANY PATH AT ALL that does not involve deportation, no matter how much we ask of the immigrant in return, is “amnesty” and therefore an abomination. In fact, it now turns out that “amnesty” is such a gigantic republic-dissolving space-and-time-warping obscenity that it’s better to let all those Aztlan-sign-bearers continue to come into the country than to let anyone of even the highest character become a citizen if he doesn’t have his papers in order. “Amnesty,” as it has come to be defined, is such a poisonous idea to some people that when President Bush gave his speech addressing the illegal immigration problem not too long ago, some on the Right decided that Bush had jumped the shark and was now a traitor to his country. People were vowing to stay home in November, even at the possible cost of allowing Democrats to take over Congress. (I believe Ann Coulter made some crack to the effect that if the Dems win, then the impeachment of Bush over illegal immigration would make a fine consolation prize.)
    .
    And now the GOP-controlled House has decided that the Senate bill, infested with “amnesty” as it is, is basically plutonium, so it’s better to do nothing this year than to pass the bill. Yessir, by God, this year we’re going to do nothing about the problem that had us all so spooked less than two months ago, a problem so horrible that people on the Right were considering throwing Bush and the Republicans under the train if the problem wasn’t fixed. But no, I guess we don’t need to do anything about the issue after all. Sooooo sorry to have gotten so riled up over the issue for the past few months. We’re just going to let the problem continue to fester for the rest of the year. But we’ll do something after the election — cross our hearts and hope to die, REALLY we will.
    .
    All this because the idea of allowing people who committed a misdemeanor in getting into this country, people who are already working, to become U.S. citizens without deporting them first is an idea that (to many on the Right) absolutely cannot be tolerated under any circumstances whatsoever.

  • skeeter

    Sorry, the issue here is not deporting all or none. But the screwed up INS situation, well described above, begs the argument that this country needs to fix the legal means first before opening the floodgates, and before putting in new laws that cannot be administered because the INS is so screwed up! If INS are not doing the job now, what makes you think they will be able to implement the Senate bill? Instead, we have all the illegal folks here now, plus a big additional influx that want to get in on the amnesty by any name.

    Then, any penalties recommended by the Senate bill are lost in the sea of red tape, and these folks are still here, and are still a potential security threat, BECAUSE the broken INS does not have a handle on who is here.

    Fix the border control, and reform the INS/ICE or whatever, THEN look at what to do with those here. In the mean time, being fiscally responsible for oneself and obeying the law are minimum requirements for immigrants. Just because some are good Christians doesn’t mean that all are, and we need to use deportation as a tool of immigration management. But all or nothing is a simplistic argument. On both sides.

  • skeeter

    Sorry, the issue here is not deporting all or none. But the screwed up INS situation, well described above, begs the argument that this country needs to fix the legal means first before opening the floodgates, and before putting in new laws that cannot be administered because the INS is so screwed up! If INS are not doing the job now, what makes you think they will be able to implement the Senate bill? Instead, we have all the illegal folks here now, plus a big additional influx that want to get in on the amnesty by any name.

    Then, any penalties recommended by the Senate bill are lost in the sea of red tape, and these folks are still here, and are still a potential security threat, BECAUSE the broken INS does not have a handle on who is here.

    Fix the border control, and reform the INS/ICE or whatever, THEN look at what to do with those here. In the mean time, being fiscally responsible for oneself and obeying the law are minimum requirements for immigrants. Just because some are good Christians doesn’t mean that all are, and we need to use deportation as a tool of immigration management. But all or nothing is a simplistic argument. On both sides.

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