Our community is diverse, in part, because it remains tolerant. It is also affordable and relatively safe in an era when more and more are getting pressured to move. The diversity in Rogers Park is both a strength and a weakness. We need to give those who entered without inspection and those who overstayed a chance to finally live a normal life. This means that we need to join them in letting Congress in D.C. know what it means to live without legal status.
Most earn more than the wages in their nation. Yet, their employers are often a curse and a cure. The employers need employees. Many local unskilled Citizens and permanent residents do not have the persistence to see a job through to the point that training is accomplished. Who do these 'so-called' unscrupulous employers turn to? They turn to the people in the community, many of whom need a job to support their family and sustain themselves. Papers be damned, these folks take risks and our Government seems to have trouble consistently enforcing the law. Inconsistent is what puts these folks in fear and often foreigners and employers simply forget that what they are doing may be criminal. Yet, somehow they don't seem to appreciate the power that the Government has post 1986 to close their operations.
For those who recall the Simpson Mazzola Act, those who lived here since 1981 were given a chance to prove it, among other qualifications. These unlawfuls, some who also overstayed visas, were allowed to file for relief with a series of disqualifications. This meant that those who were convicted of three misdemeanors need not apply. Those who were J-1 visa holders subject to a two year residence bar did not qualify for legalization. Those who committed fraud were subject to provisions that allowed them to petition for an exception; this does not mean that these candidates received a greencard (permanent resident status). What these folks received, if denied, was a sealed file. That is, if they tried to apply for legalization and failed, they could not be deported for their efforts to come out from the woodwork.
The Act which became known to the Immigration Bar as "IRCA" also contained a rather lame series of enforcement provisions. I say lame, not because they could be enforced, but lame because no enforcement agency or Congress in its right mind would be willing to become the Elliot Ness of deporting aliens and thwarting economic growth. IRCA came without a reasonable means to secure affordable workers. This meant that the economy would continue to rely on unlawful workers, even if employers had to fill out forms to confirm that employees were eligible to work. These 1986 laws were unfunded mandates.
The funds needed to adjudicate all of the legalization applications took a heavy toll on the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The application backlogs from this process made routine marriage petitions and adjustments an ordeal that could last well over a year, often two. Although, the fall out really took place in the nineties, many applicants later used a penalty clause that allowed them to pay a $500 to $1000 penalty, so that their spouses and parents could remain in the U.S. to process.
The backlogs, combined with the loss of many service and unskilled positions to other nations led to economic turmoil. Many Americans who relied upon long term unskilled positions or overseers of the unskilled watched as those assembly positions left the U.S. and Chicago for that matter. The workers were not their. The concern over labor and immigration laws made it easier to send those jobs overseas to India, Malaysia and other nations. The professional and skilled postions remained to some extent. The era of the multinational has created the sucking sound out of the U.S. heard all over the world. Such a vacuum has meant that the technical support haven is becoming more and more part of the fabric of India. If we cannot bring in talented workers quick enough, the jobs go out. Multi-national corporations have that option.
Those affected sometimes blamed those Mexicans who entered without visas. Often, those people were simply reacting to the challenges facing the unskilled, as well. These foreign workers had no means of securing unskilled work visas, because the red tape involved for an employer to secure the visas made it too costly. Often, those who secured visas went to non-attorneys, who may have misrepresented the actual intentions of the employers. The so-called consultants were given free reign to work, because the Department of Homeland Security did not have the funds to verify fraud, nor the resources to close down these operations. Often, where there are false promises, there is victimization, as well. Once the operation appeared questionable, visas were denied, and applicants not only lose their money, but their means to a visa.
In the end, we have an immigration and visa system on the verge of complete meltdown. A system that wants to create more oppressive laws, rather than create a manageable skill set for law enforcement to impose upon the community. The need for repeal, not enactment is just as important as a legalization.
There are many millions who live in our neighborhoods and in the suburbs, who have yet to secure permanent resident status. The Government has a system that cannot meaningfully enforce, because too much is needed to make the system work. Such costs would eliminate our nations true needs (as if, we already struggle with that concept). It is not that Government gives up; it is that there is a need for the community to appreciate priorities.
Advocates for deporting all unlawful immigrants cannot justify the enormous cost to do so. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has too big a job simply removing all of those foreigners who perpetually return after they have been deported. The repeated work on the same subjects is mentally debilitating. Most have U.S. Families and simply want to remain unified. The desire to move forward and deal with the most severe offenders cannot be undertaken if we try to deport every civil immigration offender in our communities. Something has to give.
Last years "Pathway" to Citizenship was a lame Bipartisan attempt to apease the anti-immigration lobby. It creates a ten year near indentured servitude on those who want permanent resident status. We need more like a "highway" to Citizenship! That is, one that works like Legalization, but has the funds to disqualify those who must be disqualified as matter of law. Unlike its twin sister of the 80's, this highway needs a staff willing to say no, when the evidence just 'does not cut the mustard.'
Dedicated Immigration Attorneys and community immigration advocates simply want a program. Anti-Immigration advocates who want zero immigration are simply ignoring what is happening in spite of the insufficient money being poured into border fencing and space age technology. No amount of innovation will beat down the human spirit. Many of us don't want a hypocritical system is significant inconsistency. We want to represent that our laws are fair, yet realistic to be meaningfully enforced. We cannot afford to continue to deport the spouses of Citizens for the sake of "I told you so" mentalities. A better way to deal with our moral frustration with the violators of civil immigration laws is to consider our options, as well.
If some truly think that it is not worth living in this nation of immigrants, then we have the right to consider residence in Geneva, Germany, Guayana, or any other place willing to ignore our presence. Most nations will accept Americans with open arms. Our dollars keep their economies going. Also, some Americans have made a go in Mexico, among other places. However, if we expect other nations to change their immigration laws and improve their economies that discourages emigration, then we need to put pressure upon them from within.
The emigration of some American Farmers to South and Central America makes quite a bit of sense. Yet, the concern that de-forestation can impact the vast potential of the natural beauty of those nations is of equal concern. I wish that more Americans will use the values learned and try to preserve all that which is good in other nations, where they no longer feel comfortable in our nation of immigrants.
It is written "You shall not wrong a stranger (ger) or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 22:20). In addition, it is also written "You know the mind of a stranger [for you were strangers in the land of Egypt], " which is added (23:9). Most U.S. Citizens are the benefactors of our immigrant ancestors, many of whom first tolled as strangers in America. A vicious circle can end simply be recognizing the limitations our nation and the reasonable needs of others, many of whom did not have a choice when they entered as children.