We Must do Better on Immigration

Current administrative policies regarding immigration are heinous, abusive and potentially violate U.S. and international law. The U.S. can do better.

A person can walk up to any designated air, sea or land port of entry and request admission to the United States. For purposes of immigrating (becoming a legal permanent resident), that person could apply for an immigrant visa through the consular system. Immigrant visas are available through U.S. citizen spouses, children over the age of 21 years, parents or siblings. A person may obtain an immigrant visa through legal permanent resident spouses or parents in some cases.

A U.S. citizen, older than 21 years of age, can apply for an immigrant visa for a spouse, parent, an unmarried child, or a married child over the age of 21. A U.S. legal permanent resident can apply for an immigrant visa for a spouse or an unmarried child under the age of 21. A U.S. citizen also can apply for an immigrant visa for a sibling.

The worldwide waiting periods for immigrant visas through the family immigration system range from two to 13 years from approval of the visa application. For Mexican nationals, the wait time ranges between two and 23 years.

If a person can qualify for an employment-based visa to immigrate (low-skilled workers need not apply), the waiting periods are better. Once an employer applies for a visa and that visa is approved, the intending immigrant need only wait about six months for their visa.

Some people can come to the U.S. in special immigrant status as religious workers, unaccompanied minors or victims of domestic violence or violent crime. Others are permitted, under U.S. immigration law, to come to a port of entry to seek asylum due to persecution or country conditions. Our immigration laws require asylum-seekers to request status by approaching the port, at which time they are admitted to the country for processing. A person who is already admitted into the U.S. through some other status (employment, visitor, student, etc.) can apply for asylum from within the U.S. under existing law. Upon admission, the Department of Homeland Security has discretion to detain or to release them pending further processing. Discretion is the operative word.

Most applicants for admission are on their way somewhere else, to join friends, family, and support systems. El Paso is, after all the Paso del Norte, the Ellis Island of the Southern border. We are a pass-through destination.

The current administration has declared that asylum-seekers must wait outside of the U.S. for processing, denying rights granted under law. It is disingenuous, and potentially a violation of U.S. and international law, for the administration to impose this restriction. It is inhumane to corral these human beings in portable tent cities under our port-of-entry bridges with no running water or sanitary facilities. With the summer months upon us, and rising temperatures, we are likely to hear of additional migrant and refugee illnesses and deaths under these conditions.

By Ouisa Davis for EL PASO TIMES

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