Why illegal immigrants?

What is it about our (USA’s) immigration process that is conducive to illegal immigration. Cost? Confusion? Restictions?

There are many reasons. I’ll touch on a few:

  1. Poorly defended borders.

  2. Lax enforcement of immigration laws.

  3. The willingness of politicians to ignore illegal activity when it’s to their benefit.

  4. Social programs which encourage and support illegals without verifying citizenship. (Mandated by law)

  5. The US has an extremely high standard of living. Even poor people in the US can afford TVs, air conditioners, and cars.

  6. Freedom.

  7. Jobs. This one’s probably most important. They’re quickly and easily attainable in the US where, for low-paying jobs, the major qualification is merely the desire to work hard. Studies of California and Northern Mexican state’s economies show that when the labor market is good in Mexico, illegal immigration into the US decreases.
    The US has virtually open borders. We admit about 2/3 million legal immigrants each year, not to mention the refugee program which is the most generous of any nation in the world. You can read more about this at the INS statistics page at: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/statistics/

Based on personal experience in getting my husband here, I would say all of the above.

The cost is actually not too bad, if you don’t hire a lawyer. Of course, I say that as one who has an American salary. For someone immigrating from a poor country, I’m sure several hundred dollars in filing fees wouldn’t be so trivial. If you can’t manage the forms on your own, a lawyer will cost a couple grand.

Confusion does not even begin to describe the horrors that are the INS. It is nearly impossible to get a straight answer out of those people ( on the rare occasion that you can actually talk to an INS officer)–or the same answer twice, for that matter. When you call and finally get through and tell them what you want to accomplish, they invariabley only tell you about some of the forms you need. After you file these, wait months for a response, they will then tell you they need additional forms. This is still not ususally a complete list. And, whichever government department writes the tax forms must pitch in at the INS because the forms are complex and unclear. They are also extremely picky about the documentation that has to be submitted and I imagine this would be quite a hurdle for a foriegner. For example, my husband is from the third world, was born at home and was never issued a birth certificate. I tried to call the INS to ask what to do, but their response was “we need a birth certificate”. I would explain that one does not and never has existed. They would say, “we need a birth certificate”. “Yes, but…” “We need a birth certificate”. We finally had to have a birth certificate made in his country of origin, which was hysterical becasue it involved us going to the Chief District Officer and telling him (wihtout any supporting documentation) who my husband was and when he was born, after which he wrote up a document. Whatever.

And then there are the restrictions. I can only speak directly about fiance visas becasue that’s what we did, but I understand that the restrictions are far worse for other types of visas, work and student visas being relatively easy to obtain, relative visas more difficult (depending on the relationship) and an “I just want to move to the US” visa being impossible. In our case, we had to prove that we were both free to marry, intended to marry, I had to show that I had sufficient assets to support him, he had to pass a physical/communicable diseases exam and we had to file a truckload of paperwork. We did everything right the first time around, and it took us 14 months to get him here. Then we had to apply for his work permit and green card. It took 10 months to get his work permit and it will be a total of 28 months before he gets his temporary green card. It’ll be at least another two years after that before he gets his permanent green card. Five years after that, he can apply for citizenship.

Woohoo! Simulpost.

I think I misread your question a little bit. It’s a classic supply and demand problem. The US can only absorb a finite amount foregin peoples into the culture and economy at a time without drastically altering either. Assimilation is the goal. The INS receives a voluminous number of requests each year. Of the mountains of applications, it is in the INS’ best interest to select those who will most benefit the nation - people with family already in the US, or valuable skills or knowledge, or who foster diversity. Our asylee program handles those who are in dire need or imminent danger.

Some people don’t meet the criteria, some are criminals, some are just impatient to get a taste of the good life. Cost is not a factor IMHO. Many illegals can horde enough cash to pay smugglers huge fees to cross the border. I suspect it’s significantly higher than INS fees.

Thanks for the info. Any insight into why the process is so complex? Is it to discourage immigration? Provide government jobs? Does it actually cover legitimate beaurocratic bases?

I believe the process is difficult because the Federal government doesn’t see any reason to change it. If Congress saw fit to, it could appropriate a lot more money to increase INS staffing to make things easier. But it doesn’t.

The INS is not like the IRS. It’s not bringing in any money. It’s also not like the USPS, which is a quasi-independent business which can try to make a profit.

The INS has been under fire recently for allowing people suspected of terrorism into the country, so they can’t win by either being more or less lenient.

evilhanz (and if you work for the INS, you’ve chosen an appropriate handle ;)), I don’t have any objection to the INS screening potential immigrants vigorously to keep out undesirables, if you will. But I must say I think it absolutely ridiculous that, once admitted, it takes so long to get a work permit and a green card.

My husband and I are normal, middle class people. We decided to live here after marriage because there is more opportunity and freedom here. We have always supported ourselves, have no criminal records (not even for any kind of misdemeanor)and nothing untoward in our backgrounds. All we wanrt to do is get on with our life. The INS, however, made us wait 10 months for a work permit which will expire before his green card is issued, forcing us to apply again and pay an additonal $100 fee. Besides that, 10 months? I thought the INS, once they allowed someone to come here, would want them to get on with the business of being productive members of society.

And 26 months processing time for a temporary green card?! Why? This sounds like a whiney complaint to most people, I know, but bear with me. We like to travel, but we can’t until he gets his green card. No leaving the country except to travel to his home country in the event of a family emergency. What is the deal with that? What, exactly, is the INS afraid of? If he leaves and doesn’t come back, what do they care? What difference does it make to the INS if someone they’ve already given permission to come to the US takes a holiday in Europe? And really, I know we had to submit about a reem of paperwork but 26 months processing???

And the goal is assimilation? Please! Letting us live our lives like normal human beings would go a lot further towards helping him assimilate than preventing him from working for 10 months and forbidding him from taking a holiday.

You all sound like you’re having hard times with INS.

My case was entirely different, for a Fiancee visa to bring my wife here.

The paperwork was simple. There was a lot of it, but the directions were clear and easy to understand. Granted, I did do about three hours of research on INS/State websites, so I had an idea of what I was doing. No lawyer was consulted nor needed. They weren’t all THAT picky about paperwork. I only included two years’ taxes instead of three, with a note that said I wasn’t required to file taxes in 1997 'cos I was due a refund, therefore the law didn’t compel me to file (INS only needs taxes when you’re required to file) – 1997 was pre-MacInTax for me, so I didn’t have it. The only difficulty was they wanted “evidence” that we knew each other personally. I sent a letter explaining how we met. This added about 1.5 weeks, I think. All in all, INS took about 5 months. This was the Nebraska office of INS.

THEN, State took about two months, then we went to the Consulate in her country. We got the Visa there instantly (after the interview and physical, that is). This was all the Ciudad Juarez office of DoS.

Then we arrived in the USA via Houston. INS looked at her paperwork, stamped her passport, and THEN and THERE gave her authorization to work in the USA.

Then we arrived in my state, got married, and filed for her change of status within two weeks time. Again, instantly at filing, they stamped her passport with Work Authorization and permission to come-and-go freely. The Green Card will take about 10 months, we were told. This was Detroit office of INS.

We’ve since gone to Canada and Mexico with no problems, and gotten the SSN card without the “no-authorization” stamp on it.

That’s MY experience, in any way. The technical aspects of everything were INCREDIBLY EASY. The hard part was waiting, waiting, and hoping nothing went wrong. Had it, I imagine I’d be telling a different story.
HOWEVER, I think the OP didn’t really mean fiancees, more like immigrants just showing up at the door. Nothing to offer there :frowning:

[[Confusion does not even begin to describe the horrors that are the INS. It is nearly impossible to get a straight answer out of those people ( on the rare occasion that you can actually talk to an INS officer)–or the same answer twice, for that matter. When you call and finally get through and tell them what you want to accomplish, they invariabley only tell you about some of the forms you need. After you file these, wait months for a response, they will then tell you they need additional forms. This is still not ususally a complete list.]] Etc. etc.

Bring me the broomstick of the wicked witch of the west. Wait, we wanted the other broomstick. As one who wrestled with INS to bring our adoptive son home from Jamaica, I can vouch for all of this. Passive aggressive, power mad, sadistic schmucks. - Jill

The Oregonian, of Portland, Oregon, was awarded the Pulitzer prize for this series of articles exposing abuses and corruption in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

many articles on this topic: [url=“http://www.oregonlive.com/ins/index.ssf?/special/current/archives/ins.frame”]Liberty’s Heavy Hand[/url}

many articles on this topic: Liberty’s Heavy Hand

That is most certainly not true. The US does admit a lot of immigrants, but millions more who would like to immigrate are not allowed to. Lucky has pointed out many of the difficulties they face.

Lucky, I think I’ve mentioned this before, but you don’t have to wait until he has his green card before you can travel. He can get an advance parole document which allows him to leave and re-enter the country. There’s absolutely no reason it should have taken him 10 months to get employment authorization (EAD card) - the time it takes varies by INS office, but none of the ones I dealt with ever took more than a couple months and most of them took considerably less time than that. The only thing I can think of is your local office must have had a hell of a backup. At the time I was getting out of the business there was talk of them extending the EAD’s validity to two years, but I’m not sure if they’ve done that or not.

As far as the birth certificate goes, the INS does recognize that these don’t exist in all countries, and actually has a country-by-country list of documents it will accept in lieu of one (for example, Indian nationals frequently use “affidavits of birth” sworn by their parents). You unfortunately seem to have dealt with someone at the INS who didn’t know this.

Balthisar’s procedure was so easy because he went mainly through the Department of State, not the INS. The DoS employees are better trained and higher paid and there is usually less of a backup, so the process moves more smoothly.


You did mention before about the travel, but I have been under the impression that they will only allow him to travel to his home country. I’ll look into it further in case this has changed.

Balthisar, I am extrememly jealous. I, too, did all the research, filed everything appropriately blah, blah blah and it was still a nightmare. Originally, the INS told us they would give my husband a work permit at the airport, but they didn’t. At the time, a customs officer asked him, “What kind of work will you do in the U.S.?” to which he replied, “I’m not sure”. So she didn’t give him a work permit. We called the INS the next day and asked what to do, and they instructed us to file for a temporary work permit. This instruction, I now know, was wrong. But we didn’t know that at the time, so we did as asked. After 4 months of waiting for a reply, they denied it on the grounds that his fiance visa was expired and he had to apply based on his adjustment of status. Of course, at this point we had already filed his adjustment of status so we had to file the work authorization seperately. You get the picture.

JillGat, I feel for you.

Lucky, if it ever has been the case that they only allowed pending AOS’s to travel to their home country, it hasn’t been for a number of years. The advance parole is shown when you re-enter, not when you leave. The INS doesn’t really care where you go in between.

Oh, and since he’s married to a US citizen, he only has to be a permanent resident for three years before he’s eligible for citizenship - not five. 8 USC 1430, Section 319(a).

I have no experience with the INS, but I’ll take a stab at the OP anyway.

I think the reason there are so many illegal immigrants is that, like other countries, the U.S. only wishes to accept a certain number of immigrants per year. These immigrants are the ones who can have a positive influence on the economy without putting a native American out of work. The U.S. does not want people who will but a burden on our inadequate government-sponsored programs such as MediCare, welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the school system, etc.

But what constitutes “a positive influence on the economy”? In my opinion the majority of poor, un- or under-educated illegal immigrants who come here are taking jobs that native Americans tend to eschew. I think that the American work ethic has been erroded over the past several decades. Remember Grapes of Wrath? People would take back-breaking jobs for very little pay and very much abuse, and they still worked because it was better than not working. Today it’s different. I’ve met or have known people who said “Why should I get a job? I make more on Welfare.” One person I worked with said to me, “I would steal before I’d take a job picking lettuce.” Most illegal immigrants seem to come from south of our borders. Many of them take jobs harvesting produce, washing dishes and physical labour that native Americans don’t want to do. Like it or not if a native American took such a job, the wage would have to be considerably more than it is for an illegal immigrant; thus the job would not get done, or (more likely) the product would be much more expensive to the consumer. So illegal immigrants (in my opinion) do make a positive contribution to the economy.

Another factor is our southern border. It’s big. Very big. Although it is patrolled around the likely entry points, there are many places to cross. Often this comes at very great risk. I don’t know how many immigrants die in the burning deserts during the summer or freeze to death in the winter. But our borders leak like seives.

Once here, how likely is it that illegal aliens will be deported? I know there are periodic round-ups, but deportations seem relatively infrequent or at least not on a very large scale.

Why do we have so many illegal immigrants? The jobs are here, the borders are loose, and the chances of getting sent back are fairly small.

Personally I favour a more open immigration policy in this hemisphere. I think it the U.S. should have a “guest worker” program with easy enrollment. It would save lives, increase revenues (taxes), and allow people to live like human beings instead of having to look over their shoulders all the time. Crime would be reduced because people would be more likely to go to the police and report it. Going the other way, I’ve known a few Canadians who work here. Canadian actors are all over our teevee screens. A former neighbour was a Canadian working for a defense company. And why not let Americans live and work in Canada? We’re all human beings, and as long as we obey the laws of the country we’re in and live peacefully with the native population, where’s the harm? If we had an open policy regarding living and working, there could be laws that say, in effect, “As long as you are gainfully employed, pay your taxes and don’t commit crimes, you may live here. Otherwise you are subject to deportation.”

Geez, after that, this may end up in IMHO or GD!

Johnny, you raise some good points. And it may well be the case that there is a sort of gentlemen’s agreement between the US government and the big corporations which (ultimately) profit from cheap illegal labor not to come down as hard as they could on these people.

But while it’s probably true that most illegal aliens are doing menial labor for below minimum wage, a substantial number aren’t. In any big city you’ll find illegal Irish and British construction workers, painters, movers, bar staff, nannies. I know a lot of these people and what they’re making isn’t chump change. It’s easy for them to get these jobs because their communities in the US are pretty close-knit, and they look out for each other. So that’s another answer to the OP.

On the question of deportation, I’m not sure of the number that take place each year (the INS site probably provides stats) but it’s a general rule that if they find you, they’ll deport you. They don’t seem to actively seek out European and Canadian illegals as they do Latinos, though. I’ve known several of the former who’ve been deported, every one of them because they were ratted out by someone who was pissed off at them (and regardless of your views on illegal immigration, I think that’s a really shitty way to take out your grudge against a person). I’ve only heard of one case of the INS entering an Irish pub looking for random illegals, yet the INS has frequently been known to raid areas that illegal Mexicans congregate in. I think this is partially due to the INS’s own racism and partially due to the pressure put on them by US citizens who - as another general rule - seem to me to get more upset about illegal Mexicans than illegal white folks, which of course is racism as well.

Good point. I’ve only met a couple of Canadian illegal aliens, but people certainly come from all over the world and some of them get good jobs.

Well, this is just heresay, but:

I’ve talked to many people on the internet who state that they are not allowed to get, even, visitors visas just because of their age (young).

It seems, according to them, anyway, that the US is afraid that they will come here and stay (and take up jobs Americans should have?).

And, then, there is the time involved in getting a visa. Months? Years? And it seems to be worse depending on the country of origin (Mexico, for instance, seems to be one of the most problematic).

A friend from Algiers was never able to get a US visa, but got a visa to Cuba within a couple of weeks.