On American Immigration

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recently said DACA recipients should:

“Go home and get in line, come into the United States legally, then get a green card, then become a citizen.”

This statement betrays a tremendous lack of understanding about the American immigration system.

The United States caps the number of people that can apply for visas from each country. Approval depends on three things: the category an individual is classified under, how many people are in that category, and the date on which the individual applies. This means that certain categories of people have to wait decades to even apply for a visa, while others hardly have to wait at all. According to the State Department’s October 2017 visa bulletin, A US permanent resident’s unmarried child, 21 years old or above, must wait approximately 21 years to file an application for an immigrant visa if they’re from Mexico.

Luckily, my husband did not have to wait nearly that long. As a younger woman, I went to London, where I met an Australian man who eventually became my husband. We were living in Australia when we decided to move to the United States, so he applied for a visa. Even though we were married, the application process still required he enter a lottery to win one of the visas available under the Aussie cap. Entering the lottery required multiple invasive health exams, stacks of paperwork, lengthy background checks, in-person interviews, and a great deal of money. We were shocked at the vast differences between the bureaucratic insanity of the American system and the relatively straightforward, but just as problematic, Australian system I had been through three years earlier.

For the overwhelming majority of applicants, the American immigration system is prohibitively expensive, hopelessly convoluted, and endlessly bureaucratic. We have an illegal immigration problem not because "immigrants are bad", but because our system is broken and desperate people make desperate decisions. The best way to reduce illegal immigration is cracking down on the extensive networks of employers creating profitable markets for human traffickers by hiring undocumented immigrants, not carrying out expensive and amoral mass deportations that tear otherwise law-abiding families apart. Most importantly, we need comprehensive immigration reform to modernize our immigration system in ways consistent with American values, as well as a global commission on the migrant crisis.

Our American values demand that we confront the deeper issues clouding our conversations about immigration head on: prejudice, racism, and fear. Our nation’s bloody history of baby-snatching, internment, and slavery clearly shows that our founding principles, which unequivocally declare every human being to be endowed with certain inalienable rights, and our diverse demographics are in significant tension with one another. We must remember that feeling uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe.

To my fellow white people: a lot of us cannot differentiate between feeling uncomfortable and actually being unsafe because our comfort has been systemically prioritized over other people’s liberties for so long, they feel like the same thing. They aren't. We are protecting our feelings of personal comfort at the expense of other people’s actual liberty. When it comes to systematic prioritization of white comfort above all else, we have three choices: actively prop up this system of white supremacy, take shelter in it while claiming innocence of support, or use the power we have granted ourselves at the expense of all others to take it down.

We are building another system of dehumanization, forgetting that when we dehumanize people, the people we dehumanize do not lose their humanity: we do. Humanity is not conditional upon citizenship. If it were, the state would grant humanity, and therefore, the state would take it away.

Humanity transcends the state.

I assure you that it is no small thing to forsake your native land for a chance to adopt the banner of another. It demonstrates tenacity, courage, and commitment; values Americans cherish above all. It is those values that can see us through this time of intense division where politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to exploit our most shallow differences for power. Better to stop running from who we really are and what we've really done, then use that pain to finally realize what it was supposed to mean to be American: “e pluribus unum”, out of many - one, this time with liberty and justice for all.

Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity, which is outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery -- the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate - I will not excuse." I will use the severest language I can command, and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slave-holder, shall not confess to be right and just. - Frederick Douglas

Thanks for reading.

You can find me, Kim Cavill, on Facebook, Twitter, online, and at sexpositiveparent@gmail.com

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