I am the immigrant

I am a card-carrying alien. Literally.

IMG_1713-001This card with my name and fingerprint on it, also records my official Alien Number, assigned to me by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

We are now at the end of our ninth year of living in the States. We are, as the famous song by Sting goes, “legal aliens”. During this time, we have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on paperwork and travel to keep our visas current. We have been retina scanned, finger printed, and submitted exhausting and exhaustive records of every job we’ve ever held, every school we ever studied at, and the names and addresses of every person we are related to.

We’ve been legal aliens for 9 years, but now, with three children born in the US (call them anchor babies if you must), we don’t want alien cards anymore. We want green cards. We want to be allowed to permanently stay in the country where our children are, without fear that my hubby will lose his job or the laws will change and suddenly we will find ourselves with no legal purchase in the country where our kids are.

But applying for permanent residency is a lot tougher than you might think.

… Even though we are English speaking and have five graduate degrees between us (two of those from top US universities). Even though we hold jobs, pay taxes, have three kids who are American citizens. These things are not enough to put us on a path to citizenship.

… Even though we contribute to our community, want to ADD to this country and not exploit it, even though we serve in our church and schools. These things are irrelevant when it comes to a path to citizenship.

… Even though my husband’s job involves research which impacts the quality of the entire multi-billion dollar road network for our state…. still, our attorney advises us that this MAY NOT be enough to show that we are “valuable” enough to obtain green cards.

The bar for getting permanent residency is not set at the nice-person-well-educated-contributes-meaningfully-to-the-economy level.

The bar for getting permanent residency is currently set at the have-you-won-a-nobel-prize-or-can-you-prove-you’re-going-to level. The is-your-work-contributing-to-the-NATIONAL-interest level.

Excellent and meaningful work done for the state of California is insufficient. We have to prove, on paper, that our contribution is better for the ENTIRE country, not just the state we live in. Our attorney is “hopeful” that we “might” be able to show that the work done in our State affects others, and that our petition “could” have a “pleasing result“.

Our friends here have often assumed that OF COURSE we have green cards. They seem surprised when we tell them we don’t (Why? Because we’re white? Because we’re English speaking? Because we’re employed? As we keep telling them: we are aliens, friends. Every law dealing with immigrants, borders and national security means another set of fingerprints we have to submit, another security clearance form we have to fill in.)

The options open to us to pursue residency are limited: we can’t marry an American (oops – married already). Our kids can’t sponsor us for another dozen years (oops – we don’t have that long on our current visas). So instead we (or our employers) have to pursue the “prove you’re indispensable to the country” option.

So, when I heard that legislation championing immigration reform was being proposed which would “open up a path to citizenship”, my heart leaped. A path for people with degrees from American universities (that’s us!), for families with American kids (that’s us!) Not that we would instantly be granted citizenship… but at least a path would be visible.

However, America is the land of Newtonian Politics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Immigration reform was just one of the many heated topics under discussion in the final weeks before last year’s election. Emotions run high in voting season, and people are free to express their thoughts. I generally try to keep my head down, but I was deeply hurt by one friend from church’s frequent facebook posts on the hot-button topic of immigration reform. He warned about legislation which would let “them” in, about the threat to “us”, “our way of life”, “our culture and liberties”.

I felt so hurt. So unwanted. I stood with a leaden-heart behind him during a worship service and silently pleaded at his back: “My brother in Christ, with whom I share citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven: do you know that I am one of ‘them’? Do you know that I am the immigrant in the immigration reform you’re talking about? Do you know that without some reprieve in the current legislation, we may have to go? Your wife would have one less bible study leader, your kid would have one less parent volunteer in the classroom, your business would have one less paying customer. Did you know it was ME you are closing the door on?”

I never said anything. I suspect he didn’t know.

But maybe if he had, he might have more compassion. Maybe he would feel less threatened.

I write this piece with trembling fingers. In fact, it has taken me some time to muster up the courage to post it. I am afraid of the lash back of speaking out on such a touchy topic. I would rather be an ostrich. I am afraid of owning up and confessing in a crowd that I’m one of “them”.

Sometimes we have to be brave. I don’t have a vote, but this blog is my voice. So this is me being brave and saying this:

I want to contribute to this country. I am invested in its future, especially for our kids. I want to create jobs, not take them. I am not an exception to the rules regarding immigration, nor do I want to be. I am one example of exactly who the immigration reform is talking about. When you think about the “immigrant”, think of me too.

I am the immigrant. And I really want to walk the path to citizenship, should it open up.

Night by night, I collect and collate documents to present our case to USCIS. I hope it we will be accepted. I hope in the interim that the legislators will look at the immigration rules and see that the current “path” to citizenship is extremely narrow, with precipices on either side. I hope they will see fit to widen it, even if just a little.

But if they don’t, and if our petition is not successful – so be it. If our time here runs out and we cannot stay, we will say our goodbyes and be thankful for the wonderful years we have lived in these United States. And then we will take our American children elsewhere and do our very best to teach them to be brave, honest, hardworking immigrants there. For that is what they will then be.

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64 thoughts on “I am the immigrant

  1. So powerful and so brave. Beautiful words, beautiful heart. There is nothing wrong with what you’ve said here. And if someone tells you that there is, and if they shun you, they are so, so wrong. I am grateful to you for writing and sharing these words. You may not be able to make a change in policy through your blog, but you *can* change a person’s heart. This may be the first time someone has heard what the life of an immigrant is like. This may forever change their views, and the views with which they raise their children. I understand the fear and trembling that comes with hitting “post” on a divisive topic; I appreciate and admire your willingness to be vulnerable for the greater good.

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  2. Would testimony from lives you’ve touched while living in the States be acceptable? I know you’d have thousands of stories available from those who love you.

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  3. Ditto what both comments convey. I am so blessed by your friendship and would be honored to contribute to your documentation in any way I can. So much love for you guys!

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  4. I completely agree with Jamie. Bronwyn, you are a gifted writer, and speaker too. You have a way with words, but I know those words come from your heart which makes them more beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you for sharing your feelings. Thank you for being kind to those of us (I’m sure I have more than once) who put our foot in our mouth by saying something incorrect and possibly unknowing about which we are talking. You are an amazing woman, my sister in Christ, my friend, and by far my most favorite “alien”, even though I think of you as the first three more often. I’m so glad you decided to share this with us.

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  5. I pray the entire world will one day understand that we ALL are immigrants! Thank you for sharing Bronwyn. I had no idea what you and many others have gone through. I appreciate you taking the time to educate me. God Bless You and Your beautiful family. I will continue to pray for all of you.

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    • Thank you Beth. Last night I was encouraged by Ephesians 2 once again: “So then you are no longer strangers and ALIENS, but you are fellow CITIZENS with the saints and members of the household of God.” That’s the citizenship that ultimately matters :-)

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  6. Oh, Bronwyn, I join many in hope that your time of official, permanent welcome is soon. I teach in a public high school–ironically, I feel sometimes I am better understood culturally by my immigrant students, (mostly Asian), than by the ‘natives’.

    I was at a graduation reception for one of my students (American born of immigrant parents); the daughter had told me earlier this year that she was going to the ceremony to watch her parents be sworn in as American citizens. She was so matter of fact about it, I think she was somewhat taken aback by my somewhat effusive response. I spoke with both her parents (both had grown up
    under communism in an Eastern European country); the mother told me they had arrived here 22 years ago with two suitcases and a two year old–and built a life. They came, she said, because they wanted their children to have choices (I teared up as she spoke). I have lived for significant time periods in both Asia and Europe; and have great appreciation for both. But, I have more and more appreciation for the best that our country offers for those who would choose us.

    Bronwyn, thank you for choosing us. May we be worthy of that choice!

    Rick

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    • Thank you Rick for your encouragement and for sharing about your high school students: how moving! One of the reasons I wrote this piece was because, in my experience, immigrants often face much prejudice. They are presumed to be ungrateful, lawless, takers-rather-than-givers, unable and unwiling to contribute. In my experience (and in yours, by the sounds of it), those labels don’t fit. Prosit spes labori.

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  7. Dear sister in Christ.
    I appreciate what you have written. Never having to have dealt with this, I had no idea of the difficulty thrown in the path of those who legally wish to become part of this country. The difficulty with “immigration” isn’t folks like you who try to do everything legally and do indeed contribute greatly where you live. It’s those who sneak across the border without concern for the “legality” of their actions. I hope and pray that you get your green cards, but I’m afraid this so-called reform will only really benefit the “illegal aliens.”

    I do have one gripe – not with you at all – the comment, “we’re all immigrants.” And please forgive me for “the rant.” We are the descendants of immigrants, even the so-called “native” American. My own family has been in this country since right after the War for Independence. I am not an immigrant. My children are not immigrants. Neither are yours, for that matter. My grandchildren are not immigrants. We are Americans!

    I hope one day that you and your husband can say that. I hope you and your family don’t have to leave this country. But if you do, I hope the country which is “lucky” enough to become your home appreciates how blessed it is!

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    • I appreciate how Beth used the word “immigrants” above in referring to our spiritual status. The Bible is replete with God reminding his people to care for aliens because they were once aliens in a strange land as well. this now applies as a metaphor under the New Covenant. We have been brought into the kingdom of God. All Christians are immigrants in that spiritual sense.

      And as for longevity in this country, my family came here in 1680, over a hundred years before the USA even came into existence. But come from somewhere else we did, just like everyone else on this continent. No family is without immigrant status here, either in the present generation or a preceding one. And I figure that once you are here, there is no added merit for having any particular number of generations to look back on here.

      Which brings me back to the spiritual aspect. God has no grandchildren, so each person is first generation in the family of God. Then again, this is an ancient and eternal family, so our lineage is something to treasure. What a wonderful family God has.

      Blessings,
      Tim

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      • Paul referred to our “citizenship” in heaven, not to our “immigrant status” therein. As far as “aliens” in a strange land, that was a reminder to Israel of their own redemption from slavery and that, because of that, they themselves were not to oppress others.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment. I think, as both physical people born in a country and spiritual people born into God’s Kingdom, that we wear the titles of “immigrant” and “citizen” both, depending on the context. For certain, the physical experience for us of being “strangers in the land” has really deepened our understanding of what Abraham and others went through in living in a place that is not truly and ultimately “home”. I am so thankful for the faith-lesson that this life experience has taught us.

      in terms of the immigration problem – I want to phrase this carefully. I think part of my reason for writing this post was borne out of sadness that when I hear people discuss immigration, there seem to be two underlying beliefs framing the conversation: firstly, the belief that immigrants in general are unwilling and unable to make a positive contribution and are takers rather than givers. Secondly, the belief that any change to the immigration laws will open up the floodgates to hundreds and thousands of those types of immigrants to coming into the country. Sadly, much of the rhetoric surrounding the debate seems to implicitly believe those two things.

      I am sure that immigration reform WOULD change the numbers of immigrants, and I am sure that there are people throughout our society who are unwilling and unable to make a positive contribution: I think you find people like that among immigrants and among nationals. However, I think neither of the presupposition about “what immigrants are like” and the presuppositions about “what immigration reform will do” are necessarily true or fair.

      I don’t claim to know all the facts, and I don’t claim to speak for all immigrants – but as ONE immigrant, who knows a lot of other immigrants (from China, India, Europe, other African countries as well as a number of 1st generation Americans born to Mexican immigrant parents) – I don’t know a single one among the group of immigrants I know for whom those labels of law-disrespecting, selfish-takers fit. The immigrants I know have varying skill levels, but they do share a desire to make positive contributions to this country.

      My hope in publishing this piece is to speak up against some damaging stereotypes. I grant you that stereotypes often have some factual basis, but often they paint a very skewed picture.

      In no way do I think that immigration reform could or should mean that anyone and everyone could just come and live in the US and claim benefits. I hardly think that is what even the most liberal proponents of reform are arguing for!!! But I did hope, by writing this, to gently suggest that immigration reform could be perhaps more subtle and more positive for the US than the rhetoric allows for. But those are just my thoughts.

      With grace and greatest respect,
      Bronwyn

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      • Precisely, Bronwyn. Even the most productive members of our society are here because someone immigrated (including those who arrived by crossing the land bridge thousands of years ago). There’s no sense pulling up the ladder just because we’ve established ourselves here while others are still trying to climb aboard.

        Tim

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  8. This is beautiful. I’m sharing with others–thanks, Tim for linking to it. Bronwyn, have you read the book Welcoming the Stranger? It was very helpful for me as I tried to understand the immigration debate, especially in light of God’s commands regarding aliens and sojourners. Thanks for writing this beautiful post. And actually, since I’m in Illinois, your blog is helping the whole country, educating us about this very important political and justice issue. Just a thought. Your influence spreads far beyond the borders of your state.

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  9. It’s good to hear a personal story rather than lingo from politicians. I am never sure, as a voter, what to vote because I honestly had no opinion, no reason to vote either way, not enough information–which is sad to say.

    Immigration, like adoption, is something that Christians ought to embrace–just as God embraced us.

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  10. Such a powerful post! Absolutely struck a chord. I just met with a woman who is new to my church about this topic. She was brought here by her parents illegally at 2yrs old, is married to an American soldier, & is still dealing with paperwork difficulty. I have no idea how that works, but something in me softened watching her frustrated tears roll down her cheeks. I confess I have been ignorant to the needs of the alien. Thanks for reminding me again to open my eyes.

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  11. All due respect, but I don’t see many people having a problem with immigration per se, but with *illegal* immigration. From what you’ve said here, your family has obeyed the laws of this country, and if (heaven forbid), your application for permanent residency is denied, you’d honor that decision as well and relocate. Speaking from my rather conservative point of view, you and yours are models of how immigrants to this country (or any country) should behave, and I would welcome you, both as a Christian and an American with open arms.

    I think the folks many people have a problem with are those who don’t obey the laws. The ones who come here without doing the hard work necessary to become a legal resident. The ones who wouldn’t just say “so be it” when told they must leave. The ones who, when it comes down to it, haven’t shown the same respect to the rule of law in this country that you have.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Josh. I appreciate your thoughts, and am not aiming to speak for all immigrants or to advocate for blanket admission to everyone. I wondered though if, in all of the immigration reform discussion, people were aware how very difficult it is to get permanent residency legally, even if you are an English speaking, phd holding, legal alien! If it is tough for us, how much more so for others (if not impossible). Is it perhaps possible that immigration reform should be considered because there might be many categories of people who the USA would really LIKE to keep but who can’t under the current laws? Just a thought.

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  12. I admit that, while I had a feeling that the process was arduous, I didn’t realize it was *that* arduous. And yes, I completely agree that for those who have followed the rules to the best of their ability (including children who were brought here illegally), the process should be reformed and made easier.

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    • I think if people knew how arduous the process is for immigration and how much taxpayer dollars are poured into “what gets destroyed” when someone who should get to stay is not given a clear path to immigration, there would be more willingness. I don’t open up about my own story much but hope here I will not be chastized for doing so. Currently, the government has forked out nearly $200,000 in my direction as a part of “what got destroyed” when my husband was deported. I am a U.S. citizen from birth but I married an alien, here on U.S. soil. He was in the process of becoming a citizen, had a green card, but because of a disagreement with a family member, the family member retaliated by speaking to the Immigration judge and his green card was taken away. “No green card” meant “no authorization to work” which meant he could not hire a lawyer to defend himself and the verdict was guilty by default.

      The deck is stacked against the immigrant. In addition to confusing laws which an immigrant must understand, yet no American would be authorize to stay if it was his duty to understand the same laws. Further, an immigrant faces the daunting challenge of outwitting all those who stand at the doors of this country charging money for the missinformation for sold to immigrants–those selling are lawyers, some are fellow countryman, others pose as business opportunists. Further, if you come from a country that has a special “intelligence quid pro quo” with America, if you voice your political opinion about the ruling dictator in the country you are from, ICE can quickly find what is wrong with your papers and disappear you. How does, home country dictator find out about what goes on here? Well, they’ve sent spies. Interestingly enough those spies have green cards and any clearance they need.

      My husband and I filled out paperwork. We hired lawyers. We tried to go through the process. But ultimately we lost and he was suddenly deported. The “destruction” of that is what the taxpayer is still paying for. We were both working and supporting ourselves. His business tanked after he was deported–no surprises there. I had to file bankruptcy as a result of it. I found a temp job quickly and began to work arduously and then discovered I was pregnant with twins. I went a few months without income and miraculously landed another temp job (through a phone interview) while pregnant, otherwise we all know nobody hires a pregnant lady. Let’s not kid ourselves. I worked so hard during my my pregnancy that I went into early labor several times and ultimately developed a condition which required an emergency C-section. I nearly died. I’ve never relied on state assistance but I was given no alternatives in this case. We sent in a request to immigration for an emergency visa for my husband because of my condition and again were denied. As soon as I could stand upright, I began going to job interviews. But I was still far from recovered. I didn’t get hired for several months. Likely, I looked like I felt, lack-luster and a little green. I work now but daycare costs close to $600/week for two infants. If the government wouldn’t pay that, I would be working for -$95.00/week. By the way, I also have a Master’s degree and my husband has a degree in business.

      Offsetting the cost of daycare, I’ve got a year to increase my income to an additional $6/hr. in order to make what hits my bank account as $5/hr, after paying for the cost of daycare. I’ve done everything I can to cut expenses, dumpster diving for food, shutting off the water in my house. Shutting off the electricity in my house and maintaining the heat at 40 degrees F in the winter. Meanwhile, my husband and I have a long distance relationship. I haven’t seen him in person for 2 years and our twins haven’t met him yet. Further, our “friends” whom we have so tirelessly helped seem to have abandoned us. Why, oh why would anyone want these sorts of problems in their life.

      Do I deserve this somehow because my husband is an alien? Did we somehow not work hard enough or sacrifice enough to be together? If we are going to make immigration THIS difficult and punish spouses to this degree, we may as well decree from the whitehouse that all aliens (because they are aliens) and their families who live in this country must undergo periodic torture, imprisonment, humiliation and raided bank accounts–otherwise, they can go live somewhere else. I used to believe that America was the land of opportunity and freedom: I don’t anymore. It is the land where the priviledged and the wealthy make laws and break laws so that they can become more priviledged and more wealthy.

      For those reading, please don’t associate my anger and indignation as something that is the same as our dear writer, who has written so graciously. She is much more humble and forgiving than I. She seems to be a sweet tenderhearted person but she also does not have the LIBERTY to be as angry as I can be. That is the required difference between an alien and a citizen.

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      • Abigail, thank you so much for being brave and honest and sharing your heartbreaking story. I am so very sorry that you and your twins are separated from your husband and their daddy. I cannot even get my head around how hard that must be. I would be so angry too if I were you, and had tried so hard to do things legally but found myself a victim of a system with a deck stacked against them. God bless you and your babies. I hope that somehow you are shown mercy and that your family is able to be reunited.

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  13. Bronwyn, A great piece from your heart and head. You’ve certainly helped me to feel what it is like to be an immigrant. I had no idea you faced this predicament; I presumed you had some sort of permanent residency.

    While the US, like every country, has to be careful who and how many immigrants they allow in, it is quite evident from the hoops you have to jump through that ‘they’ have lost the plot. It is quite evident to any normal moderately educated person from a couple of interviews, your papers, degrees, lack of criminal records, graduate degrees, Jeremy’s high powered job, community & church involvement, and 3 American citizen children that you are an asset to the country. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that; one does not need costly lawyers to prove that; one does not need reams of documents to argue your case. All such is a waste of your time & money & a waste of well paid (?) immigration officials’ time. This sort of scrutiny is needless and fails to solve the real immigration problems the US is facing.

    And by the way if you are an asset to California you are an asset to the United States of America. What builds up California builds up the United States. Most players in the US are players in their state; few people have influence and direct impact beyond their state. Even state governors are hardly known beyond their state. How many of the 50 state governors can you name?

    Finally, every year I receive one or more emails asking me to apply for a green card and enter the lottery for some 50 000 green cards. If immigration is so tight how can they give away 50 000 green cards by chance each year? I’m sure those chosen will then have to go through a rigorous procedure but if there are tens of thousands like you in the country why have lotteries for more immigrants? It beats me.

    Take heart, my friend. I pray you get your green cards. I’m sure you will. We’re so sad to lose you.

    Yours
    John

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    • Thanks John for your encouraging reply. I totally agree about the gain to the state being a gain to the country, but sadly that is NOT the way the legislation (which was pretty recent, i might add) was worded. too bad. For the last two years we have out our names into the green card lottery hat too, and I have found myself sometimes thinking: “is it really possible that we are more likely to remain in the USA by chance than on merit?”
      I hear rumours that the green card lottery (“diversity visa”, by its proper name…. Because 50 0000 people a year are needed to add to this country’s diversity??) is on its way out. *sigh* oh well, I’ll continue to put my name in the hat while the hat still exists. Perhaps we will win it before we can earn it?!

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    • I want to respond to this idea that immigrants also must follow the laws of this country and that there are hoops to jump through and we need to carefully regulate who comes in and who stays. There is also this idea of doing the hard work that is required to be a resident and be a citizen. I think Josh touched on it and Kathy you did too and I am just responding here because I can’t respond everywhere.

      I would first like to say thanks for giving it some thought and for engaging because most people don’t even start–and there will ultimately be serious national consequences for this. I will say I use to believe like you did until I found such thinking to be eronious and…well priviledged. Let me explain what I mean. Most good hearted people believe and operate according to the rules and the laws of the land. These rules were created for order and for a purpose and to keep people honest and to have everyone do their part and for fairness.

      But the picture changes when one looks beyond the existing laws as the “given” facts. What if you found out that while you were spending your life following the laws and living uprightly, there were people secretly making those laws so that they get more and you get less–further, that you are happy about getting less? Let’s just say they tricked you. How would you feel?

      If we look beyond the current system and existing immigration laws as the given and incorporate into our conversation how they got there and what “dues” people had to pay in order to stay “legally” or putting it as broadly as “without hasle”–we are looking at a much bigger global dynamic that has existed since the dawn of creation. Right now if you want to stay in this country, and you are not from here, you have to do the paperwork and pay the lawyers and such–those are your “dues,” so to speak. Those in power here and their friends require this.

      Now, in 1492 the laws were different. I’m not sure if us rule followers would have survived that time, because we follow the rules! (And maybe we think we really can catch and bring justice to those who don’t) Back then you had to be native american (but you didn’t want to be that for long) or you had to have a gun. Essentially, if you were more powerful and if you were willing to kill and be killed, you didn’t have to follow any existing rules that the “owners of the land” had. The dues you had to pay were that you didn’t follow the existing laws of the land and that you were a Cortez and a Columbus and a Major Samuel M. Whitside. You could be party to something like the Oklahoma Land Rush in order to be “citizen” of the new society that was pushing out the old one. THAT was the hard work of the “occupiers” then.

      You may have heard that all before. However, you may not fully realize is that we citizens of America are now in the same situation as the native americans were back then. Most of us are busy upholding the laws of our country, while our leaders are “repositioning” themselves for the battle we are in the process of loosing. The truth is once someone more powerful than ourselves does war on us (economically, politically) we may not even see the war, but once it is over we’ll all know it happened. Our priviledge as citizens will mean nothing more than it did to be a native american in the 1500s. This has happened since the dawn of time. Jericho thought they were standing up against an invador but they were all killed and a new law took over. The Gibeonites turned from citizens to slaves. After the Six Day War, that you were a Palastinian citizen meant nothing.

      So, paying your dues and requiring others to go through a process to earn citizenship–I hope you realize that when you are working hard at doing that and figuring out how to get all these immigrants leagally processed–you are being played by the existing power. They are using you for their means to their end.

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  14. Bronwyn, thank you for your article. I enjoyed it very much. Sadly, people like you are caught in the middle of a political battle that is about more than immigration. It is about the direction this country is headed for the next century. Most Americans I know would welcome you with open arms into our country — you are exactly the kind of hard-working person we desire to come into our land. You would help our country, not hinder what it represents.

    As a Christian, I am often troubled that we expect a nation or country to act like the church, however. I don’t think it is quite biblical to think that America is a Christian nation, nor do I believe it will ever act like one. This nation was founded on Christian moral principles (not doctrine), but it’s obvious to the discerning eye that even this morality is eroding on a daily basis.

    The average, hard-working American understands that the immigration process is completely messed up. The problem lies with the political climate of our country right now. Many Americans see that the Progressive mindset wants to allow millions of illegal immigrants to stay in our country and continue to receive handouts (which their taxes pay for.) Why? For future votes. We see that our country is almost 20 trillion dollars in debt to nations like China. We worry what this will cost us in the future. We see that the current administration can’t even pass a budget and the debt continues to grow.

    Thus, many understand that it is hard to allow an unlimited number of people to enter our country until they get this all figured out. You are caught in the crossfire. There is no doubt that your contribution to our nation should give you an entrance card immediately. However, there is a mindset in our country that wants to unbalance the scales towards a society that is far different from the one you are enjoying right now. The political balance in our nation can be overturned tremendously if illegals who are not hard-working, as you are, are given free entrance into our country. The result will be a vote for continue freebie handouts, which our economy cannot sustain. It will also result in a mindset that will reduce our hard-working individualism and freedoms that this country has cherished valued — and that others across the globe appreciate about our country.

    I wish I knew how to fix this conundrum. You are caught in the middle of a huge political battle right now due to no fault of your own. I truly appreciate your voice. I also value the necessity of giving thoughtful consideration to this issue, knowing that it is essential to craft real and honest policies that allow our country to grow and flourish — rather than letting it disintegrate to a country less than it can be. Everyone loses if that happens. It is essential that we do not rush the process — or we may pay a huge price.

    May God be with you during this difficult time.

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  15. Hi Kathy, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I can understand where you are coming from and appreciate that this is a very complex issue with far-reaching implications economically and socially, both for the present and the future.

    One of the reasons I wrote this piece was to try and illuminate that the “immigration reform” question does involve far more layers than perhaps people realize. At one level, It directly involves people like me, and many other artisans and professionals who are hoping that some of the new legislation will bring some relief.

    At another level, immigration reform involves undocumented workers who have been in the USA for a long time and have family and roots here. For those people, deportation could mean severe pain and suffering (to them, their families and their communities, given how long they have been here), but if they are to stay here, then a path to citizenship is the only way for them to become future tax payers and economic contributors. They cannot buy health care unless they are legal… So perhaps some immigration reform to allow people who ARE here already to become legal (and consequently earn legal wages which can then contribute to Medicare, social security etc) needs to be considered. I understand that this could be seen as “rewarding” them for illegally crossing the border, but I also feel some compassion towards people who would rather go to a place where they will never have full status and must “hide” and take menial jobs – because they judge that to be better than the options for their children in the place of their birth. The word ‘refugee’ comes to my mind more easily than ‘illegal’. But I do understand the frustration.

    The third level of immigration reform is about people who are not yet in the USA, but who hope that the laws will change in such a way that they could immigrate.or at least, this is what I understand by the “floodgates” commentary.

    There are probably more ‘levels’ than the three I mention, but these three at least are there. I deeply respect your concern for dialogue, caution and wisdom. My hope in posting this is not to hasten things along, but to add to the careful dialogue. It would be sad to refuse even discussing immigration reform because we assumed it was only dealing with level three. And it would be naive to only consider legislation reform for level one, when clearly level 2 is the category with the most political heft right now.

    Whatever immigration reform is, I hope to add positively to the discussion by adding my story. I hope people realize just how broken the system is, and just how much hard thinking needs to be done on the issue. Knee jerk reactions of “we won’t even discuss it” or “just let everyone in” can’t possibly be a nett gain. I really do appreciate your caution and willingness to listen as well as explain. Thank you again.

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    • Thank you for your kind reply, Bronwyn. It truly is a difficult situation. I absolutely think your comments added to the conversation in a positive way because it brings up a situation rarely talked about regarding those who have come legally, who have been respectful of the process, yet find the red tape excruciatingly difficult to navigate. It’s kind of like our tax code — it could be simplified beyond measure for all of us. :)

      We might differ on the issue regarding those who have come here illegally and whether they should be allowed to stay. I lean more towards refusing to reward their disrespect for our current laws, as broken as they may be. Truly, most of us are compassionate about the desperate situations that some of them face in their home countries.

      However, not everyone who crosses our border is innocent and honest. Many who have come to our land have come here under the guise of drug-dealing and other cartel activities. The threat of terrorist activities within our own country is slowing escalating.

      Not all have come here with the same intentions as you possess. How are we to tell the difference between them? I have much more compassion for those who simply feel helpless and desperate, for instance, to feed their family. However, compassion alone is not a reason to allow admittance to our country if it means that an illegal activity must take place to do so.

      Thus, it’s not so easy to simply give a pass to people who have chosen to disrespect the laws of our nation because of compassion. What kind of future citizen does this make them? One who will disrespect other laws in the future? It they feel that our laws do not apply to them, what kind of society will eventually develop? I am not sure I am ready to give up a civil society with law and order and choose to honor willful disobedience instead.

      I have been to African third world countries — and South American ones, as well (though a Christian relief organization). I have seen deep and tortuous poverty. Yet, I have met many who live in poverty in those countries who would not consider trading their honesty before God to escape their plight if they had to do it illegally.

      I think the Christian perspective is this: we are asked by God to follow the laws of the government we sit under — because God has placed us in our particular situation — for His glory, not our own. We are also asked to be content in our own situations, like the Apostle Paul. Yet, many disregard this principle — even professing Christians. Certainly, compassion is in order, and our physical help, wherever possible, is to be offered freely and lavishly out of the gratitude in our own hearts for such a great salvation. I think Americans do a very good job of this….many of us support children around the world, for instance and projects around the world to help make their lives less difficult. The aide we offer through thousands of aide organizations, both secular and through our government, are unmatched.

      In regard to health care — the huge financial burden of illegals within our country is staggering. When our country has a 20 trillion dollar indebtedness to countries like China, how can we justify paying for healthcare for illegals with tax dollars provided by citizens? While they may not purchase health care at this time, they are never refused care when they walk into an ER at a hospital or urgent care center. The Public Health Centers in every good-sized city are overflowing with illegals seeking medical care. There is a price tag on this — and it is expensive.. I once had to get a vaccine to travel to Tanzania and had to wait almost 4 hours — most of the people in the waiting room were more than likely illegals. There were no English words spoken in that room that day. This is huge cost to our broken economic system. This facet cannot be ignored.

      In regard to the terms refugee and illegal — refugees are also handled under governmental regulations. Whether a refugee or an illegal alien, if you have come here outside of the bounds of our current laws, you have broken our laws. How can we trust you in the future? Would I want to employ a dishonest person? Nope. Should a person who is here illegally be allowed to take a job away from a US citizen? It should not be allowed. Yes, we can be compassionate, but there is no way that America can take in every person in the world who is hurting. It is simply impossible.

      How then do we deal with this situation? It will never be dealt with perfectly, but we can smooth out the process for legal applicants first and foremost — people like you. I am not of a mindset to honor those who have disrespected the process, no matter how fallible it has become. Sadly, we live in a fallen world. I know that must sound harsh and I do not mean it to sound that way. But reality is harsh. The real world is hurting on many levels.

      Another way we deal with the situation is to take personal responsibility for ourselves to be generous with our own finances. Rather than expect our government to give away borrowed tax dollars for projects that further burden our collective debt load, we can learn to be generous individuals and support those relief organizations which do a good job of reaching out to the world with valuable aide.

      At the end of the day, those who are of the Christian persuasion understand the sovereignty of God in all things. When we see situations where people are hurting, we are called to compassion — thus we give profusely from our own wealth. We shouldn’t have to tax others to pay for what should be our own generosity.

      America is one of the most giving and generous nations on earth. Bottom lines: our generosity doesn’t mean we have to bring every hurting person in the world to live upon our shores. It simply is not possible. Our generosity also does not mean we should encourage anyone to participate in illegal activity or to approve of it in the name of compassion. The cost is too great for a nation that has its own share of troubles…sigh.

      Hopefully, you will understand that I am not a heartless person — but a very practical one. :) I actually have a fountain of compassion in my heart for those living in difficult situations. But, I’m also a realist.

      Sadly, we will not fix the ills of the world, even with our best efforts. That’s why we continue to long for a future kingdom, where this kind of scenario does not exist. Soli Deo Gloria.

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      • I totally agree that Americans, and particularly american christians, are among the most generous people I have ever come across. It is something I admire greatly and which has challenged me.

        What a vexed issue this immigration issue is: much wisdom is needed. And compassion too – but as you rightly point out, compassion is not a blanket for covering over corruption. (While love does cover a multitude of sins, as you said in your first comment – it is not right to think of this as a Christian nation per se.)

        In the mean time, I’ll keep filling out paperwork and longing for the ultimate Kingdom :-)
        Thank you so much for your dialogue. I deeply appreciate your compassionate heart.

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  16. We feel your pain. Living in England. Don’t think it is that tough from a legislation point of view, but whenever folk hear our accent you see in their response that we don’t belong.

    … I heard that the green card was actually pink?

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  17. Can totally relate to this – while fighting the same battles in the Netherlands. The hardest is looking into the eyes of your children who totally believe they are Dutch (or American) and having to say “Yeah but no matter how Dutch you feel – this country can kick you out at the drop of a hat”. Heartbreaking!

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    • I’m sorry you are in that same tough situation, Kathy. I pray our kids will be that much more sensitive to cultural issues and fighting bias (in themselves and others) for having had the background they do.

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  18. I have the privilege of working with many immigrants (mostly illegal) who come looking to work hard and provide for their families and be contributors to their communities! This issue has so many tentacles and is so complex. My heart breaks over so many aspects of it! THANKS for sharing your story! My husband and I were privileged on Friday night to see this documentary when it debuted in our city….the director’s hometown. It was VERY thought provoking and we came home and had yet another long discussion.

    http://thesecondcooler.com/

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  19. Excellent, excellent writing! Thanks for being brave to do this . . . this was a great reminder for me that there are REAL people and real stories behind all the “careless political” talk we throw around.

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  20. Oh my, how touching this is! And how I feel for you. I lived in Singapore for 3 years and experienced what you have. It took far too long to just get my work permit. I met people with stories like yours – waiting to get a visa to the U.S. or waiting to get a green card. I had no idea it was so HARD. Something is wrong with honest, hard working, upstanding, follow-the-rules people them and you have to “prove” you are worthy (I wonder if those bureacrats have READ the Statue of Liverty lately??) We ARE a nation of immigrants – LEGAL immigrants. All of the angry rhetoic being hurled is meant for ILLEGAL immigrants, not realizing it impacts people like you… the people we WANT to come here! And yet somehow of current Presidental Administration if more concerned with the ILLEGALS than the LEGALS. The whole immigration issue is a mess, with far too much politics and too little commen sense. I’m so sorry you are in limbo and I pray you get your GREEN CARD very soon! God bless you and thanks for being bold and brave and writing this piece!

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    • Thank you for your kind words and well wishes, Larry. I hope my story helps people to realize how very difficult it is to come to this country legally at all! I had often heard people talk about how frustrated they were with illegal immigrants, and they would say things like “if they want to come here, they must do so legally.” However, now as one trying to remain here legally, I realize that the bar is incredibly, incredibly high. So high that I daresay 99% of Americans would not qualify for permanent residency if they had to apply for green cards in their home country. It is a very privileged thing indeed to be born an American. There are international privileges that attach like almost no other country. We are so very thankful for the privilege that gives our children, even if we are unable to participate in them ourselves.

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  21. i think there is a difference between illegal immigrants and legal aliens. People have problems with the illegal ones, not the legal ones. The law should allow for legal aliens to apply for green cards and receive them, if they are a productive part of society, as with you and your family. Good luck.

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  24. Thanks so much for this post. I married an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who just became a citizen this month. We have walked through the system from start to finish, and it has been a wild (and very expensive) ride. I have learned so much and felt a burden to keep telling our story as there are so many families sharing similar experiences to ours who can’t speak up or do not have the option to marry a citizen as my husband did.

    One of the things that most surprised me is how from countries in Central America there are very, very few options to gain entrance to the country legally. Reading comments to this post reminds me that most people think it is a simple “Are you a law follower?” question.

    Again and again, people are surprised when I tell them that my in-laws have been repeatedly denied visas and were not able to attend our wedding or the births of our children. Everyone assumes it’s possible. It simply is not.

    Thank you for telling your story. I firmly believe stories do have the power to influence opinons. We tell our stories at http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com if you are interested. :) Glad I stumbled upon your blog via G92.

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    • Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story! I had not heard about g92 until they contacted me and asked to post my piece. I have read around their website too now and am so impressed with their message. I feel more strongly about this issue than ever before. I’m looking forward to visiting your site too :-)

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