It makes one wonder why the U.S. has such a problem with illegal immigration? If the immigration policy is so generous, why then does the United States have such a problem with people crossing borders illegally? A closer look at the policy, along with an interview with someone who migrated to the U.S. sheds a little light on why, in practice, it isn’t that easy to get citizenship status for many who wish to have a better life.
“Annie,” a worker at a local sandwich store, reinforces this from her own experience. She is a migrant from the Philippines. She explains that she married someone in the U.S. Military, it was not difficult for her to migrate from the Philippines. “He’s military. He arranged my papers.” She said it took about one year to get her paperwork through. “I have a better life here, than in the Philippines. When he married me, I was poor. But, whenever I got married to him, I got a better life than when I did when I was in the Philippines.”
The Philippines is a country that has a massive number of immigrants come to the United States every year. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of Filipino immigrants living in the United States has increased exponentially since the 1980s, growing from close to 500,000 to near 2 million by 2013. And although the Philippines is a very poor country, it is significantly easier for immigrants to come to the United States and obtain permanent residency due to the close relationship with the U.S. it has maintained since World War II and the business relationships between both countries.
According to the American Immigration Council, the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) allows for 675,000 permanent immigrants annually. That total is divided up into several different groups, including Family-Based Immigration, Work Visas, and Asylum and Refugee Immigration. And of those groups, the allotted number of Visas are divided by types of immigrants and where they come from. Some countries are allowed significantly more visas than others, thus making it far easier to get permanent residency in the U.S.
The AIC goes on to state that those who are here and are undocumented are here cannot just “get in line” as some political leaders and anti-immigration spokespeople would have you believe. Most of them do not fall into any of the categories that would allow them to obtain residency status based on the INA and even if one does, the wait time could be up to 25 years for their approval.
While there is no cut and dry answer, there needs to be a clearer understanding of the minor details of immigration reform and how to not blanket all migrants into legal and illegal groups, because those nuances can tear families apart and prevent them from returning to the U.S.