I know that in the US there is a lot of debate (or a lot of consternation about the lack thereof in Congress) about how to improve US immigration policy, but in only a month of being in Nicaragua I’ve seen numerous examples of how US immigration policy really hurts people and families. These are all true stories that people told to me. They are not second hand.
One woman in my training town legally immigrated to the United States. She met a man there are they had a son. Two months after he was born her mother in Nicaragua got very sick so she flew home without the infant. They thought that her mother was going to die, but she recovered, so the mother with the infant still in the US sought a re-entry into the US. It was denied. She wasn’t just going to abandon her son though, so she legally made her way to Mexico, where she hired a coyote to smuggle her into the US. In Mexico she destroyed her Nicaraguan papers so that if she were caught she would get sent back to Mexico, not all the way back to Nicaragua. The coyote was successful in getting her to LA, where she got a fake ID and a plane ticket to Ft. Lauderdale. She presented the fake ID to TSA, they accepted it without question, and a few hours later she was re-united with her infant son in Florida. This woman never broke US laws while she was in the US, immigrated to the US legally in the first place, she is the mother of a US citizen, and to be with her infant son in the US she had to drag herself through the Mexican desert with a coked-out criminal.
I am visiting a Volunteer in Jinotega this week. She lives with a woman that has two adult sons. Their father lived in Houston until he passed away in 2012. They want to visit his grave, but their visa application (which was submitted in 2005, before his death) was rejected because the father was the sponsor, and he has since passed away. To notify the sons the US government sent them a long legalese memo, in English, with their options for follow-up. No one in the household here can speak English. It took Hannah and I about 30 minutes just to begin to understand it. Unless this family hires an immigration lawyer I find it highly unlikely that they will be successful in their appeal to the US government.
The last story is the saddest. There is a pair of elderly grandparents in my town that look after five of their grandchildren. Three of the kids were born in Guatemala, and they do not have Nicaraguan papers, so it is very very hard for them to find work. Their grandfather has to work long hours as a security guard at a farm to provide for everyone. The mother of the children has disappeared and is presumed dead. The last they heard from her was four years ago when she was in Tijuana, Mexico, on the US border.
I hope that Congress does something to prevent this from continuing in the future. You can’t just remember the pain crappy immigration policy causes in the United States. It hurts family members in countries all around the world as well.