Lengthy immigration process exposes broken system
When America’s most famous immigrants, the Pilgrims, came to the New World in 1620, it took them 65 days to voyage across the ocean, according to history.com.
But now, the journey to America for immigrants is much, much longer.
According to a flowchart called “Immigrating legally? Good luck!” from the libertarian Reason Foundation, the best-case wait time scenario for a person seeking legal immigration is six years, with worst-case scenarios peaking at 28 years.
Not only has the red tape led to an influx of undocumented immigrants, of which the US Census Bureau estimates there are about 12 million, it has also led to widespread frustration among legal immigrants.
Grace Cheng’s (12) family emigrated from China in 2000.
“It took my family years to come to the United States…I’ve been here for 15 years and just got my green card four years ago. That’s ridiculous,” Cheng said.
Daniel Kanstroom, an immigration and human rights law professor at Boston College who founded the school’s Immigration and Asylum Project and directs its International Human Rights Program, explained the broken system also has negative impacts for the economy, family unity and community stability.
“The current US immigration admissions system is broken and dysfunctional. It does not adequately meet the needs of the economy (thus attracting workers, but not respecting the rights of undocumented migrant workers). It also has long waiting periods and various harsh, arbitrary aspects that impact family unity negatively (such as the so-called ‘unlawful presence’ bars). Finally, it also includes a disproportionately harsh deportation system that has caused untold harm to individuals, families, and communities, while accomplishing little demonstrable good either for immigration control (broadly defined), crime control, or national security,” Kanstroom said.
These impacts stem from a haphazardly organized system.
David McConnell, an adjunct professor of immigration, asylum, and refugee law at American University’s Washington College of Law and the University of Alabama Law School, explained the country’s piecemeal approach to immigration policy.
“The primary flaw in U.S. immigration policy is that our immigration laws are now essentially a patchwork of legislative provisions first enacted by Congress more than 60 years ago, and amended several times since then… So, rather than simply continuing to amend the 1952 laws to react to events like September 11 and other world and national emergencies, I agree with people who say that Congress should take a fresh approach and enact a coherent and comprehensive statute that reflects the needs of the United States in the 21st Century. This task is not easy, because immigration raises issues that tend to provoke strong opinions on both sides of the debate, but I think we should not avoid it as a nation simply because it is hard,” McConnell said.
McConnell is also the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation, Appellate Section, and his comments represent his views alone and not those of the Department of Justice or the United States.