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Raw deal: Immigrants who paid a legal price say focus on illegals is ‘discouraging’
Question of the Day
When Lucinda Sweazey’s family immigrated from Canada in 1999, it took seven years and an estimated $45,000 in legal, passport and visa fees for her parents and siblings to secure permanent resident status in the U.S.
“Our lawyer even mentioned to us when we were going through the process legally that it would have been easier if we came in illegally. We would have saved money, and there’s a good chance we would be citizens by now,” Ms. Sweazey said.
Now an undergraduate student at the King's College in New York City, the British Columbia native said the massive immigration overhaul working its way through the Senate could make a “mockery of legal immigration.”
If lawmakers offer a shortcut to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, she said, “it becomes rather discouraging to someone who came legally.”
Ms. Sweazey and other legal immigrants are voicing concerns that providing amnesty for those who arrived illegally will only encourage more of the same.
“We should not reward people for breaking the rules while we maintain burdensome rules for immigration,” said Liye Zhang, a software engineer in Castro Valley, Calif., who emigrated from China when he was 10.
Mr. Zhang, a strong opponent of amnesty, noted that one of his co-workers plans to obtain a master’s degree in order to get into “a slightly shorter line” for a green card — a process that ultimately will cost more than $300,000 in tuition and loss of salary.
“Giving green cards to illegal immigrants while not giving them to these people seems very much stupid and foolish,” Mr. Zhang said.
Mr. Zhang’s father secured a job in the U.S. in 1999 as a software engineer and obtained visas for his immediate family. Although they pursued citizenship as soon as they could, it took Mr. Zhang seven years to become a citizen.
“The process was long and exhausting,” he said, recalling his visits to immigration offices in San Francisco, many of which required early morning travel and long hours in lines. “It cost a great deal of money even though I am unsure how much precisely it was.”
In 2012, roughly 1 million people obtained legal permanent resident status and 750,000 received naturalization in the U.S., according to Department of Homeland Security numbers.
That is far fewer than the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.
Of those 11 million, 1.4 million qualify as “Dreamers” — illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who have been offered a temporary reprieve from deportation by the Obama administration.
Deferral applications for the Dreamers are expected to further slow approvals for the 4.4 million people worldwide waiting for green cards, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
The backlog for those going through the process legally is expected to grow: Over the next 10 years, the immigration bill is expected to help legalize 32.5 million to 33.5 million people, including the 11 million current illegals, according to estimates by the left-wing Center for American Progress and NumbersUSA, which opposes the bill.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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