Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Legal Immigrant Speaks Out

Few issues stir people's emotions like illegal immigration. The emotions were in full display this past week as people reacted to the Obama administration's decision to grant deferred action to certain DREAMERS.

As I was reading people's reactions on my Facebook newsfeed, I came across this question: "Why would anyone bother to follow immigration laws?"

Well, I cannot speak for all legal immigrants. But I can certainly speak for myself. The reason I followed the law is simple: peace of mind. Yes, I did it for myself... call me silly but the idea of having to worry about being picked up by immigration officers at any moment just didn't appeal to me.

No patriotic act on my part. I just do not want to deal with hassles. Incidentally, this is the same reason I file my taxes on time... pay my bills... and so on.  I just want piece of mind. I am selfish that way.

Besides, legal entry has its own perks. For example, not having to walk days across the desert risking your life. Much better to come through a point of entry and have a customs agent welcome you to the United States with a friendly smile.

Often, people tell me that they are surprised that I do not buy into the whole "I came here the right way, why don't they" line of thinking that is very common among legal immigrants.

I did it "the right way" because I could. My family had the resources to send me here to study. So what exactly is the point of comparing my situation with someone who has no legal avenue available to come to this country? That is like patting yourself on the back for buying something you really want and can afford while disaparaging others who can't do the same.

Better yet, what is the purpose of looking back and saying "well my ancestors came here legally, why can't they do the same"? I remember Rick Santorum talking about his Italian immigrant grandfather's hands. He said, "They were enormous hands. And all I could think was those hands dug freedom for me."

Very moving words. But his grandfather's hands, feet, whole body would have not been able to enter the United States under current immigration laws.  At least not legally. And that is case for the overwhelming majority of ancestors who "did it the right way". Again, what is the point?

Becoming fluent in English was another selfish act on my part. I wanted to be able to take advantage of every opportunity that this great country has to offer.  And that can be done only if you learn English. Moreover, knowing English in addition to one's native lanuage is an advantage worldwide.

I honestly do not understand why people get so emotional about this issue. I do not understand why so much time is wasted comparing apples and oranges. Time that could be invested in crafting a pragmatic solution to the problem of illegal immigration.

Above all, I do not understand why allowing to stay individuals who are here illegally through no fault of their own upsets so many people. Especially if they have demonstrated a willingness and ability to contribute making this country even greater. We should be deporting Zetas. Not valedictorians.