Finally I had the chance to ask the immigration lawyer, “What can I do to help?” His answer: “Tell their story.”
He wants me to spread this information as an example of the plight many undocumented immigrants face now.
We were meeting because I had been worried for my friends who, I thought, might not sufficiently appreciate their danger. It was an honor to receive this much time free of charge, but by the end I knew why the meeting took so long, and I was heartsick on behalf of my friends. I felt as if kicked into the belly or in shock with first mourning.
The dad came into this country illegally, alone, like so many others who want to provide for their family and can’t do it at home. Six years later, mom asked her young children, “What would you like for Christmas?” They said promptly, “To see daddy!” Mom found a way to get visitor visas and travel dollars – and they stayed.
Now one daughter is married, has a college degree, a two-year Green Card, and will soon be able to apply for citizenship. To get that she must pass an interview deliberately designed to “weed her out” if she gives an untoward answer. That’s why she needs an excellent lawyer at her side. (This is the case for most immigration interviewees already here.)
Once she is a citizen she can apply for Green Cards for her parents. That can take up to three years, and her father will have to pay a hefty (for them) fine for illegal entry. Younger siblings can apply separately, but those applications may linger in limbo since “legal” applicants from outside the U.S. are considered ahead of “illegal” ones already here. Also, apparently there are currently about 250,000 applications and about 23,000 are processed each year.
And for undocumented people whose relatives first made Green Card applications on their behalf after 2001, they may have to leave the country and prove that a spouse or child legally here would be in extreme hardship if they cannot return to provide for their dependent(s). In the current political climate I doubt whether anyone will hazard such a move.
How can any family stay under the radar while finding separate and difficult paths to Legal Residency? The lawyer told me that there are plenty of such “complex cases.”
I am an immigrant twice over, one of the lucky ones. As followers of Christ we are asked to obey our superiors and the law. But when that conflicts with loving my neighbor and providing for the widow and orphan, I believe love reigns over authority.