It's Incredibly Difficult to Make A Life In The U.S. If You AND Your Parents Weren't Born Here

I have been reading “Welcome The Stranger - Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate” and this passage stood out to me:

Elena is a typical example of the millions of undocumented people in the United States who yearn to be on the path to citizenship but a this point are not. She came to the United States for the first time in 1990. Like many others, she came because there were insufficient work opportunities in her home country...

Elena thought about trying to obtain a visa, but with little money she knew that she would be denied a tourist visa, as she would be suspected (rightly) of being a potential overstayer. She would have liked to have immigrated legally as a Lawful Permanent Resident, but there was no accessible legal options for her to immigrate. So, instead, she paid about $600 to a coyote, trekked three days across the desert without food and drink, and eventually arrived to the welcome of her relatives in the suburbs of Chicago. With their help, she secured a false document to work and began flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant within a month of arrival. She has since married and had two children - US citizens by birth - but she still does not have a green card.

Within the four general processes by which a person can obtain a green card under current immigration law, Elena has no options. Those four options are employment, family, the diversity lottery, or a fear of persecution in the home country....

An understanding of the actual waits and costs implied when we suggest that immigrants wait their turn and immigrate the legal way is helpful. It is equally important to acknowledge, though, that many (probably most) of the people who immigrate illegally to the United States did not even have the option to get in line, because they have no qualifying family member who is a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Elena is a good example. She chose to come to Illinois because she had family living there - a US-citizen uncle and Lawful Permanent Resident cousins - but they did not have any right to petition for their niece or cousin, respectively. So Elena had no one to apply on her behalf for a family-based visa, and instead she came, as may others have, by crossing the border illegally.

Elena’s son, who was born in the United States and is thus a US citizen, turned twenty-one a few years ago, so he is technically eligible to petition for his mother. Under current law, though, this would not really benefit Elena, because she would have to return to Mexico to apply for the visa-no adjustment of status within the United States would be possible in her case, at least under current law-and the moment she crosses the border, leaving the United States, she would trigger a ten-year bar to legal reentry because of a tough law passed by Congress in 1996. In her circumstance, there is no waiver or exception available, so unless he wants to be separated from her children for ten years, she does not have a particularly good option.
— Welcome The Stranger - Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate

The closer you stare at the Federal Laws that govern our immigration policy the more contradictory and complicated it becomes.

Welcoming The Stranger

Housekeeping is still a book that haunts my times of meditation and quiet moments

Everything that falls upon the eye is apparition, a sheet dropped over the world's true workings. The nerves and the brain are tricked, and one is left with dreams that these specters loose their hands from ours and walk away, the curve of the back and the swing of the coat so familiar as to imply that they should be permanent fixtures of the world, when in fact nothing is more perishable.

Marilynn Robinson writing in Housekeeping


After spending some moments on social media - why do we often feel worse at the end of that time?

A reflection from Brooke Gladstone of WNYC’s On The Media on why using social media is more often dishearenting than uplifting.

Brooke is one of my favorite media commentators, and in this audio essay she looks at how the competition between T-Series and PewDiePie may illuminate uncomfortable truths about human nature, and how internet companies gamify it, more than it might say anything about personal or group ideologies and bigotries.

Screenshot of FlareTV's live subscriber count for the PewDiePie vs T-Series competition ( FlareTV / Youtube )

Screenshot of FlareTV's live subscriber count for the PewDiePie vs T-Series competition ( FlareTV / Youtube )

I'm guessing that not many of you ever did care about him. But this show is about big symbolic issues. So I'll end on the ones addressed earlier this hour, the perils of capitalism and what happens when the basic human need for attention is denied and wrap them both up in the saga of PewDiePie. This week Eli Pariser wrote in Time magazine about restoring dignity to technology. And he drew on the work of Harvard researcher Donna Hicks, who tracked how violent conflict around the world arises from assaults to human dignity. How being excluded stimulates the same part of the brain as a physical wound. Pariser laid out how online platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube threaten our dignity. Ignoring what we want and distracting us with what we don't, so that we stay and stay and stay.

Eager eyeballs, angry eyeballs, anguished eyeballs are all worth the same. PewDiePie knows this and he may be sorry, but not that sorry. Extrapolate to the culture, it's not hard and you'll see that it doesn't respect us either. I used to blame human nature for the messes we made online and off. But I'm starting to realize that our natures are plastic. We could be enticed easily to be our better selves but we wouldn't be worth as much. Because we wouldn't need to stay so long.

A Quote on Current Events

A passage from Between The World and Me that has been rolling through my mind and heart over the past week.

A society, almost necessarily, begins every success story with the chapter that most advantages itself, and in America, these precipitating chapters are almost always rendered as the singular action of exceptional individuals. “It only takes one person to make a change,” you are often told. This is also a myth. Perhaps one person can make a change, but not the kind of change that would raise your body to equality with your countrymen.

The fact of history is that black people have not - probably no people ever have ever - liberated themselves strictly through their own efforts. In every great change in the lives of African Americans we see the hand of events that were beyond our individual control, events that were not unalloyed goods. You cannot disconnect our emancipation in the Northern colonies from the blood spilled in the Revolutionary War, any more than you can disconnect our emancipation from slavery in the South from the charnel houses of the Civil War, any more than you can disconnect our emancipation from Jim Crow from the genocides of the Second World War. History is not solely in our hands. And still you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life...

...This is the import of the history all around us, though very few people like to think about it. Had I informed this woman that when she pushed my son, she was acting according to a tradition that held black bodies as lesser, her response would likely have been, “I am not racist.” Or maybe not. But my experience in this world has been that people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration. And the word racist, to them, conjures, if not tobacco-spitting oaf, then something just as fantastic - an orc, troll, or gorgon. “I’m not racist,” an entertainer once insisted after being filmed repeatedly yelling at a heckler: “He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger!” Considering segregationist senator Strom Thurmond, Richard Nixon concluded. “Strom is no racist.” There are no racists in America, or at least non that the people who need to be white know personally. In the era of mass lynching, it was so difficult to find who, specifically, served as executioner that such deaths were often reported by the press as having happened “at the hands of persons unknown.” In 1957, the white residents of Levittown, Pennsylvania, argued for their right to keep their town segregated. “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens,” the group wrote, “we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.” This was the attempt to commit a shameful act while escaping all sanction, and I raise it to show you that there was no golden era when evildoers did their business and loudly proclaimed it as such.

”We prefer to say that such people cannot exist, that there aren’t any,” writes Solzhenitsyn. “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.” This is the foundation of the Dream - its adherents must not just believe in it but believe that it is just, believe that their possession of the Dream is the natural result of grit, honor, and good works. There is some passing knowledge of the bad old days, which, by the way, were not so bad as to have any ongoing effect on our present. The mettle that it takes to look away from the horror of our prison system, from police forces transformed into armies, from the long war against the black body, is not forged overnight. This is the practiced habit of jabbing out one’s eyes and forgetting the work of one’s hands. To acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning toward something murkier and unknown. It is still too difficult for most Americans to do this. But that is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind.
— Ta-Nehisi Coats in Between The World and Me

As we enter a new era of political order and social dialogue, I hope to keep these words at the forefront of my mind.