December 16, 2010 -- - In today's immigration debate, many Americans repeatedly ask, Why don't immigrants come legally? Why don't they get in line? For the majority of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., there is no line. Given restrictions on family-based immigration and the low number of employment-based green cards available, coupled with outdated immigration laws, the number of green cards available is extremely low. Those fortunate enough to achieve legal status face years of waiting before they naturalize because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is severely backlogged due to the increase in applications and the lack of personnel to process them. There are four routes by which an immigrant can enter legally into the U.S.:
- Employment: Employers can petition for qualified workers in certain professions if they cannot find a qualified American. These immigrants must prove a high level of education and experience. The number of green cards for low-skilled workers is limited to 5,000 annually for the entire U.S., a grossly insufficient number given that the demand for these workers has surged while the supply of U.S. workers has decreased as more Americans become better educated.
- Family: U.S. citizen family members can petition for green cards for spouses, parents, children and siblings. Legal permanent residents can only petition for their spouses and unmarried children, provided they meet certain other requirements. There are limited green cards available within most family categories, but the high demand has created a major backlog.
- Refugees: Immigrants who can prove a well-founded fear of persecution may be granted refugee status or asylum. They must prove that any harm done to them is based on ìrace, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin.î Even if they satisfy this requirement, they are subject to quotas. Immigrants cannot qualify for refugee status because of severe economic conditions in their home country.
- Lottery: The annual diversity visa program makes 55,000 green cards available to persons from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S., so people from nations like Mexico, Brazil, China and India are excluded. Applicants must have a high-school education and two years of work experience. The U.S. immigration system is considered outdated and is overwhelmed by green card applicants, making it virtually impossible to come legally. As a nation of immigrants, the U.S. must transform the broken immigration system into one that works for everyone.
It becomes readily apparent; that getting in line will never resolve the dilemma our country faces with 12 million illegal immigrants living within our borders. A great percentage of them have been here for many years and have developed family, businesses and other social ties. There is only one solution to the immigration problem; comprehensive immigration reform.
This article incorporated with permission an article published by AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) AILA Doc. No. 08031243.
For more information on immigration policies, visit www.aila.org.