From college to law school to professional life, from student visa to work visa, I have scrupulously followed every immigration regulation, paid all my taxes, filed all the papers I had to file, and have not so much as received a parking ticket. But it turns out that following all the rules is not enough. A move into public interest work unexpectedly fell through, leading to the imminent cancellation of my work visa. Following all of Uncle Sam’s rules has led me, 15 years down the road, to a plane ticket booked on short notice to anywhere but here. Maybe at some point in the indefinite future I will be able to come back, but I cannot count on it, certainly not the when or the how. Maybe in five years, maybe 10, maybe never. I have done battle with the US immigration system for a decade and half, and I have lost.
Numerous American friends, when the subject of my immigration status came up, have said to me things to the effect of, “Why don’t you just become a citizen?” To the Americans I have known, it really seems that people, or at least law-abiding people like me, should be able to just go down to the DMV, fill out some paperwork, and get citizenship. Time and again I have had to disabuse my friends of this misconception. What matters when it comes to obtaining citizenship is your “status” while you’re in America, and your status can be difficult to change. Years spent as a student do not count. Neither do years on a work visa unless your employer is willing to sponsor your green card. Right now there is no viable path for me to gain citizenship or even to stay in this country, because right now there is no way for me to get a green card.
–William Han, I spent the last 15 years trying to become an American. I’ve failed.
Vox (23 June 2015)
When people say
I’m not against immigration, I just want immigrants to follow the rules, what that actually means, in practice, is
I’m not against immigration, I just think people should have to wait in line forever and find out after years of waiting that it’s still literally impossible for them to legally stay in the U.S.
Borders are an injustice, an imposition, a usurpation, and a callous inhumanity. They seek out, attack and destroy everything that is precious and respect nothing that is loving or compassionate in human life. It is unconscionable that anyone should be expected to get ground through the gears of a monster bureaucratic machine like this in order to prove the validity of living their lives. Borders and citizenship and border-control laws and government permission-slips have no value compared to a human life, and they deserve no notice except to be trampled underfoot. Everyone should be free to immigrate without restriction and all currently documented and undocumented immigrants should be completely free from government scrutiny or nativist shaming.
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