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A Dilemma: Should Illegal Immigrants Be Granted Residency

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“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” Another one of Trump’s infamous quotes that never ceases to impress society. Little do people like Donald Trump know about the millions of immigrants that come illegally in search of a better life, seeking opportunities, grasping at any chance. They seek for a sliver of what could be the American dream. For others who come to America legally, the process of naturalization can be an expensive and extensive one. The topic of immigration is always a relevant subject seeing how close the San Diego border is, always hearing it on the news channels and the internet. Many immigrants come to the United States to the United States lawfully or illegally, sacrificing and leaving their past behind because in some cases being in America means they have a higher chance of a shot at a new life even if it means risking it all.

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Approximately eleven million illegal immigrants reside in the United States, meaning that they are undocumented and could be sent back to Mexico if they are caught and detained. Before even arriving at American soil, these immigrants have different options ahead of them, hire a coyote to help them cross, hidden through compartments of cars, or by using fake paperwork. The most cost-efficient choice for many is paying a coyote, also called smugglers, to sneak a group of immigrants through the desert and mountains by foot. If they are fortunate enough and do not get caught, they have to live a very cautious life; this means keeping a low profile and working meager paying jobs to start. Among the people who had to keep their heads low were twins Brizzia and Maria Muños Robles. From a young age, they were always reminded by their parents never to tell where they were from. The twins could rarely go outside and play like normal children and had to miss school on days when ICE was doing its raids. Others like Alfredo Quiñones-Hinosa had to go through similar experiences as many immigrants did, working at field, getting paid one-hundred-fifty dollars a week picking tomatoes, corn, and cauliflower at the age of nineteen. He also had to be careful and hide whenever ICE would be within the area, hiding so he would not be sent back, in which then he would have to start from square one again. What he later did in life was extraordinary, Alfredo went on to study English at a community college and later furthered his education at UC Berkeley. He worked extremely hard and got accepted into Harvard’s medical school, now Alfredo is a neurosurgeon, telling the story of his journey. Many immigrants go on to make a better living for themselves, but others are not so lucky.

Undocumented immigrants that get caught when ICE raids are scheduled are sent to detention centers, and for the time being, have to be held in a facility with horrid conditions. While in the Otay Mesa Detention Center, detainees have declared how the conditions of the facility are deplorable. In letters from “Otay Mesa Detention Center Detainee Letter Collection,” they describe the experiences they have to endure and suffer before eventually getting sent back to Mexico if they do not qualify for asylum. One letter explains how a father is being held in the detention center separated from his wife and children, in which he is trying to contact a lawyer. The issue for him is that he has no funds to pay for lawyer services and if he does not receive the help he and his family will be sent back to Mexico with nothing, risking the safety of his wife and children. In a second letter, a man who fled from Mexico in order to escape a criminal group came to the United States in order to seek asylum. He had also suffered anxiety due to his experience. He received medication and therapy for a short amount of time from the Department of Homeland Security before they denied him treatment. He had stated how he could not sleep well at night when he does not have his prescription, the Otay Mesa facility then discontinued his treatment when the detainee needed it. He has thought about suing for the negligence of medical treatment and exposing the treatment they give immigrants. Lastly, this immigrant has also once escaped a group that has persecuted him; they had already killed his son, two cousins, and four of his friends. He is asking for help because the detention center job he is working only pays him five dollars a week, and on some occasions, they do not pay him. These letters written from immigrants from a facility that is within a ten-mile radius reflects the type of state the Otay Mesa Detention Center is in and the inhumane conditions these people have to live.

On the other hand, some immigrants come to America in a legal way, with a goal to go through the authorized process and become a lawful citizen of the United States of America. Only approximately one million immigrants are admitted into the states, and there are two options, obtain a green card and be able to live in the states permanently, or follow into the process and become a U.S. citizen. The difference between that of a green card and being a citizen is that a green card does not allow one to vote in elections nor does it allow one to sponsor other relatives who want to come into America as well, in which being a citizen allows to do so. As of 2017, there are thirty-five million legal immigrants in the U.S., these people who now reside in America come from the various forms of becoming a legal immigrant. The different choices immigrants can come into America lawfully is though relatives, jobs, seeking asylum, lottery system, and marriage. Before even applying for citizenship, the candidate has to have obtained a green card for five years. Legal residency through family means that they have to be able to sponsor one and have the adequate yearly income to do so; this process can take fifteen to twenty years at the most. Through employment, one can obtain a green card which lets an immigrant work and live within the states. For this process in order to be accepted the applicant has a better chance to getting in the states if they have a high-status job, do research, or have won a Nobel prize of sorts, these people are classified for EB 1 immigration. On the other hand, people working low skilled jobs, using more physical skills, have a lesser chance of being admitted into the United States to work. In addition, if one would stay with their employer for a long time, they could sponsor them through the entirety of the green card process. The third way immigrants seeky is by pleading asylum, meaning only particular individuals who are escaping violence, where they can prove that they are at risk. Since 2018 there have been a total of 733,000 undecided immigration cases in which the individual has yet to go through the hearing process — the estimated pending time for the hearing averages of a two year wait time. In 2016, which is the most recent years available for this data have stated that out of 73,031 cases, only 20,455 are granted asylum in the United States. To add, since 2015, denial rates for asylum seekers has only risen, making it harder for those seeking safety in America. Another option is the lottery system, also called the Diverse Immigrants Visa Program, is for the majority of those who do not live in the U.S., they can apply for a green card, and their application could have a chance at being randomly picked and given a chance to be in America permanently. The only issue about this process is that only a sheer percentage of applicants are accepted. In 2017, an estimated 22.4 million individuals applied through the lottery system, and the system only gives out 50,000 green cards out. The meaning of this entitles that less than one percent of individuals that apply through this system have the possibility of being picked. The process of receiving a green card, and on the road to becoming a citizen is through marriage. This option is also the quickest in regards to going through the process when marrying someone who is already a citizen it takes about three years to obtain permanent residency.

The process of naturalization is lengthy, depending on who one is and what country they live in. After completing the five-year term of residing in the U.S. with a green card, an individual can apply for citizenship, but they first have to check their eligibility to apply. If they are eligible, the individual would have to fill out and submit the form N-400, which is the application for citizenship. A background check is issued, obtaining fingerprints and photographs, the following is an interview where they test the applicant on English and civics, having to pass with a sixty percent. After the application goes under review and a decision is made, if it is accepted, the individual can go on to making the Oath of Allegiance when it is their scheduled time. If the application is denied, it has the opportunity of being appealed, but if the paperwork for the appeal is not submitted on time the decision is concluded.

Grandmother, Catalina Patiño, was one of the individuals who came to the United States through a work visa. She has seized an opportunity in her home of Puebla a field owner was granting letters for a work visa to the field workers to immigrate to the United States. Although Catalina did not work in the fields, she contracted someone who did to obtain that letter for her and paid them to do so. She then had to leave behind her two children and husband who was in the military to go work in the states, for the next two years she would be working in house care earning money for when the rest of her family was ready to move. Mother, Yuriko Patiño, would immigrate as a legal immigrant through relatives, her mother, at the age of seventeen having to learn a language foreign to her while attending high school. It took Yuriko two years to obtain her green card while she was still in Puebla, Mexico, and after coming to San Diego, it would take her an additional five years to become a citizen. Father, Gabriel Mendoza, received his green card through marriage, but the process was a bit different because at the time when he married Yuriko she was a legal immigrant, but not yet a citizen. Gabriel’s green card took seven years to obtain, but when his wife had become a citizen, it sped up the process of naturalization for him. Five years later, after a total twelve-year wait, he then became a lawful citizen of the United States under the Oath of Allegiance in 2013.

These are the stories of a few individuals who seek a prospering future; they are one of the millions who have a dream of being able to be within the United States. The process is dangerous for illegal immigrants who sometimes do not make it nor have the resources or money, but would risk almost anything to be admitted into America. Legal immigrants as well have to wait a great deal of time, filling out a maze of paperwork and paying quite a sum of money to have the benefits of permanently living in the “land of the free.” With millions trying to enter the country when only a fraction of those people are let in, it is as if it is impossible to let those who want a new and improved lifestyle. Two different routes just trying to get to the same destination.

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