(I don't often make political statements in my blog. But I do live in Arizona. And recently this state has become central in the illegal immigration debate. A current event sparked my post today.)
Immigration in the US and other countries is a thorny issue. Recently a touching story made headlines when a 4 year old girl was sent to Guatemala where she has relatives, despite “Emily” being a US citizen. Her parents, who live in Brentwood on Long Island, are not legal immigrants. She and her grandfather were intercepted by authorities in a Washington DC airport on their way back home to NY after a vacation trip to Guatemala. The grandfather’s immigration papers had an irregularity and he was detained.
According to the NY Daily News: “Emily could be held at a juvenile facility in Virginia or return to Guatemala with her grandfather. Worried she would be put up for adoption, (the father) chose the latter option and has been trying to get her back ever since. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed Emily was sent back but would not comment on her case further.
He said agents are instructed to tell parents in similar cases they can pick up their child, have the child turned over to child protective services, or have the kid sent back to the country they left. "We take every effort to reunite minors with their parents," said Steve Sapp. "The parents need to make the decision." But he conceded undocumented parents like Emily's risk being detained if they show up. "They do have to face consequences," he said.”
The media has been playing this up with big headlines saying that the child was deported. But you can’t be deported from your own country. It seems obvious that the parents and the grandfather took the responsibility of sending this child to Guatemala. It is perfectly legal for anyone in America to send their child to live outside the US. It happens every day. Usually a parent is with them though.
The two choices here seem to be: find a legal guardian in the US for the child, or one or both parents should move back to Guatemala. One response I received about her legal guardians is that she has two parents who are her legal guardians. Yes, they are. In Guatemala. But they do not have legal permission to live in the US.
An analogy would be to imagine a university in Rock Lick, West Virginia. One day a couple people come and sit in a professor’s class. They listen and take notes. But their names are not on the class roster. At the end of the semester they demand to receive a grade and credit for the class. After all, they had done the work, didn’t they? So the professor explains that they did not apply to be admitted to the university, did not pass the admissions test, did not pay tuition and fees, so they would not be getting credit. The two students protest. It was not fair. Maybe the professor was prejudiced because he was a West Virginian and they were from Pennsylvania. -Huh?
I realize immigration is more complicated than my classroom crasher example. It is full of unequal economic opportunity factors, family tie issues, language barriers, and history. Not to mention the citizen minor child of non-legal entrant parents, or children who have been residents of the US since they were a babe in arms and know no other culture or country. The answer is not going to satisfy all Americans or all immigrants, legal or otherwise. But the answer should not be blanket forgiveness for every person who has broken US law.
I am not an expert at these tangled knots. I am only a citizen who sees increasing lawlessness and inequitable costs infuriating my fellow Arizonans at the same time it unfairly stains the character of Latinos and others.
People who are living in the US without legal documents ought not be demanding. Like those two students who did not follow the rules, they cannot expect credit for their work, no matter how much they insist. If you lay a poor foundation, you only have yourself to blame when your building washes away or your child is sent to Guatemala.