I post a lot on social media. The purpose of my posts and my newspaper column is not to stir up ugly debate, but rather to encourage people to explore their thoughts on various topics. I don’t have answers, nor do I pretend to, but just like everyone else, I have personal experiences that color my perception of the issues.
What bothers me is when I see the politics of an issue overshadowing the fact that real, live human beings are affected by our government’s decisions. Granted, my personality leans toward sentiment, or some might call it a “bleeding heart,” so, I attempt to listen to and learn from those who feel differently, while also sharing my personal experiences. Some would say that since this is “anecdotal evidence” it doesn’t count. But my anecdotes are verifiable, and while the experiences cannot be scientifically measured, they should provoke thought.
Due to my extensive international travel over the years, people thought I was leading some mystical, magical life. What I never publicly stated was the reason behind those trips. Every country I traveled to was due to work related to U.S. Embassies. I daresay I have been inside more embassies than the average American. I have also observed the lines outside of our consulates, and I have talked to people in those lines.
So, the question that I hope will provoke thought is this: If you say, “they should just get in line and come legally,” do you know where the line is? Do you know what is required by the U.S. government?
In one Central American country, I saw the same women and children stand in line several days in a row. They sometimes traveled for miles, and were there at 7am, hoping to get inside before the heat became sweltering. Hours later, if they even got a turn, they were sent away to retrieve more information and do it again the next day.
Some of the U.S. requirements were:
1. They must own property in their native country
2. They had to have a bank account with a minimum balance
3. They had to have proof of a return flight already booked (even though they did not yet have an approved visa)
4. They had to have a letter of reference from an American.
Do you have any idea how difficult these things are for people living in impoverished (I hate the term “third world”) countries?
Over the years, we tried to help a number of different people come to the states for various reasons. We were able to successfully help one young man obtain a visa and come for pastoral training. We had to take full responsibility for him, buy a roundtrip airline ticket, help him set up a bank account, etc.
It was much “easier” for a man to be approved than it was a woman. We tried using the same methods with three different young women who had been accepted to nursing school or other training. They intended to return to their native country with those skills, just as the young pastor did. We could never get any of them approved.
So, every day when I saw the hopeful eyes of those women standing for hours outside the consulate, holding sweaty babies and the hands of marvelously well-behaved children, I felt frustrated. I knew they would never make it here. Many Americans don’t realize you can’t just “get in line and do it legally.” Being born in the United States is a privilege that most cannot fully comprehend, and which no one “deserves.”
These are some of the thoughts I hope you’ll research and add to the conversation.
Syndicated columnist Ginger Claremohr is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.claremohr.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.