No Family Values: Immigrants Catch-22

San Francisco    To open up the Tides Network (www.tides.org) board meetings Drummond Pike, the master of these ceremonies, had invited a guest, ACORN’s long time friend and ally from Los Angeles, Angelica Salas, the director of CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (www.chirla.org ). Angelica and her team had been important in moving troops to the street this last summer demanding rights for immigrants as well as registering more than 30,000 new citizens as voters before the November elections in Los Angeles. She was walking the talk as always.

I watched her go through her power point, but more interestingly I watched the small crowd of our board and staff gathered together to see how they reacted to various themes she was hitting. Much of her presentation was well known and systematically popped stereotypes. The fact that only 30% of immigrants were undocumented was the low-end of a multiple choice question she gave our crowd for example.

She really picked up traction though when she talked about the way families were being broken and destroyed despite what everyone would have felt was the case. Everyone’s standard assumption would be that if you married someone from another country, that they automatically were allowed in the US and acquired citizenship and rights.

Wrong!

Angelica walked people through the catch-22 of the last revisions of the law and the penalties for bureaucratic omissions and commissions. Overstaying a visa or similar small problems of less than six months could mean being barred from the US for two (2) years. Going past six months with bad paperwork or whatever mess up would mean that you were barred for ten (10) years.

Family spamily! In every other way, including having borne children in the US, picked up a native spouse or anything else, you would have and should have been legal, but cross the wrong line now, and you are frozen out and separated from children and spouse for years.

I watched my brothers and sisters shake their heads and rub their brows with twisted expressions. I have seen the look many times before. It says, “oh my god, how did any of us allow this to happen!”

Can’t something be done?

Yes, and now is a good time!

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