Immigration is complex

Just back from a seminar called “Immigration 101” taught at Tulsa University by Attorney Laura Bachman. One thing is clear. Immigration in the United States has no easy answers. She started with the question, “Why doesn’t someone just get their green card?” She answered by showing the complexity of the law and the long process of becoming a U.S. citizen. At minimum, it takes 3 years and can take a decade.

One of our neighborhood elementary schools that we partner with in Neighborhood Kitchens called the church this week asking if we could help a family in crisis. The mother of three children was unable to work because she is undocumented, and her husband is out of work. (I’ll call her Maria.) Maria was desperate and needing assistance. Together with two school workers, who both speak Spanish, we outlined the process she would have to go through in order to help her children.

Her goal was to get social security cards for all of them, and she lacked one. This allows her to apply for WIC and food stamps.

We helped her with groceries, some money, and I prayed for her there in the school room we were using. But the road ahead for Maria is long.

In general, people in our neighborhood in East Tulsa have fake ID cards. They obtain them from various places in East Tulsa. A person can attempt to use this to get social security or other forms of ID or assistance. Sometimes people get caught using them and are naturally nervous.

What would it take for someone to get a legit ID?

Two or three forms of ID. And most people don’t have that, a birth certificate, a passport. For someone from Mexico, they would have to apply for an $18 ID from Mexican consulate in Little Rock, Arkansas, or they could apply for a passport for $200. Many opt for getting fake IDs. I don’t know how much they cost.

Those who are undocumented, not legal permanent residents or citizens are living scared. And some say well they should since they are breaking the law. But how does a kindergarten child break the law? How is a mother who is brought illegally to the U.S. and is forced to remain home bound for 10 years breaking the law?

Most of us are not lawyers or immigration officials, so we need help in this area, and that’s why I went to this seminar. But when I told my wife, Jill, a little about the complexity of becoming a citizen, about Maria’s plight this week, she asked, “What do we do?” That’s always a great question for us, and sometimes we can’t do as much as we’d like, but here are some suggestions.

  1. Get in touch with someone in your city or state who is an authority on immigration.
  2. Find out lawyers who deal in immigration law or take clients who are seeking to immigrate.
  3. Love people without doling out easy answers. Don’t assume someone can “just get their green card” or that they are maliciously not fully legal.
  4. Help where you can give assistance to people struggling, and encourage each person to do the right thing, not to use fake ID, and help them get resources, legal advice to know the process that will protect their rights but also lead them down the path of legal immigration.
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