Monday, March 07, 2005

Waiting for Documentation

This is a story in the Salem (the Oregon state capital) Statesman-Journal, published in the Sunday edition of March 6, 2005.

Nearly 2,000 people converged on McKay High School on Saturday to obtain services from the Mexican government.
Excuse me? Seeking to obtain services in Oregon from the MEXICAN government? They're living and working in Oregon. Why aren't they seeking to obtain services from the AMERICAN government?

They came seeking documents, information and help.

They came seeking assistance in finding a job, a place to live and securing a driver's license.

There were stories of unpaid wages, workplace discrimination and missing family members.

Oh. Okay, I get it now. These folks came to America with no prospects for work, no documentation, no authorization from their host country, and now they are upset because they can't legally drive an automobile in America. They are convinced that if they can acquire a "matricular consular card" from Mexico, they can resolved their problems. They have arrived in Oregon illegally, and now they discover that they don't have access to the same resources as have ... well ... American citizens.

Now, they're not seeking legitimization from America; only from Mexico.

As far as I know, Mexico has no special arrangement with America which established the same citizenship rights for Mexican citizens as do American citizens.

I'm pretty sure that Canada doesn't have this kind of agreement with America, either. On the other hand, most Canadian citizens who wish to move to America seem willing to jump through the bureaucratic hoops which allow them legally to reside and work in America. Likewise, American citizens who wish to move to Canada must apply for permission under a specific non-resident worker status, and must wait until the Canadian government grants them permission before they move there.

Citizens of Mexico, however, seem to assume a special status which is not codified under American law. When this assumption does not automatically result in full American citizen rights, when a job is not immediately forthcoming (when they discover that they cannot legally drive an automobile) they assume the mantle of an "underprivileged American Citizen" and demonstrate no compunction about complaining that they are the new downtrodden.

Coming to America" may have been the best idea they ever had, but they face an arduous journey in their struggle to make an living in a foreign land; a country in which opportunities are many, but they aren't legally allowed to take advantage of these opportunities.

We can sympathize with them, but one wonders what they expected when they illegally entered the country. Did they not know that it is illegal to enter the country without permission? That doesn't sound reasonable.

If I had found myself in the same situation, I would probably feel discriminated against.

Whose fault is that?

Y'ever read about a Canadian immigrant complaining that he/she can't get a driver's license?
Why do you think that is so?
Could it be because the Canadians, when they choose to immigrate, actually ... 'immigrate'?

You don't hear about Canadian Migrant Workers.
American newspapers don't print stories about how "Canadian Migrant Workers" are unable to find jobs, cash checks, or acquire drivers licenses.

Why is this?

Could it be because Canadian immigrants apply for permission before they "migrate" to another country?

Curiously, the cited story never makes it clear that the "... nearly 2,000 people [who] converged on McKay High School on Saturday to obtain services from the Mexican government ..." are people who never bothered to apply for permission from the American government to immigrate.

I wonder. If these people were a valuable asset to America, why didn't they apply for a visa?

Many countries require a visa to live and work there. (Australia is one of them!)

For example, Australia has many categories for a visa:

Does it seem curious to you that Australia lists no "unskilled labor" visa requirements?

However, under "skilled visa", the Australian website mentions:

Skilled Visa Basic Requirements
In order to satisfy labour market shortages, the Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) has set specific basic requirements for people who are interested in applying under the Skilled Migration Stream.

To qualify for skilled migration, you (or your partner) must be able to satisfy the basic visa requirements and meet the current pass mark. The basic visa criteria require you to meet specific age requirements, English language ability, minimum qualifications level, selection of a nominated occupation and recent work experience.

In addition to meeting the basic visa requirements, you are also required to satisfy the current points test. Points can be claimed for several items including skill, age, English language ability, specific work experience, spouse skills and other bonus categories.

That seems clear enough. Doesn't American have similar requirements?
Yes. In fact, the requierments are much more lenient than are Australia's.

What about this bizarre requirement of eligibility for Australian "government welfare"?

Government Welfare

Generally, permanent residents have the same right to claim social security benefits as Australian citizens. However, in most cases, you must meet certain residence and eligibility rules. There is a two-year waiting period for newly arrived residents - this starts from the date of arrival in Australia.

This means that once you arrive in Australia on a permanent visa, you will have to wait two years before you can claim social security payments.


So ... it appears that it's not entirely a new idea for immigrants (NOTE: not "Migrants") to bring something to the table when immigrating to a new country.
Why is America so different? Could it be because the Rio Grande is not so grande as the Pacific Ocean, and it's just physically more difficult to move from Mexico to America than it is to move from Mexico to Australia?


You may say: "Hey, Geek! Where do you get the idea that the people who the Salem Statesman - Journal are talking about are 'undocumented immigrants?"

Granted, it's not intuitively obvious from the original article. However, even a Liberal Rag like the Salem Statesman-Journal can't get away with completely obfuscating the facts. Perhaps that's why, on the same page (c0ntinued on Page 3) it offers this companion article:

This is a story about a Mexican "migrant" who is searching for her sister.

Statesman Journal
March 6, 2005

The plea came from a petite woman, eyes brimming with tears.

"Can you help me?" she asked sheepishly in Spanish. "Please help me."

And then she began.

It has been five months -- five months of sleepless nights and anguish-filled days since Ilse M. Lopez last spoke to her sister.

The siblings were separated five years ago when Lopez, 28, left their home state of Chiapas, Mexico. They were to be reunited last fall in Salem, but 40-year-old Aide M. Lopez never arrived.

Aide had saved her money to hire a smuggler to get her to Oregon. But according to reports from acquaintances on the journey, Aide sprained her ankle somewhere in the Arizona desert. The injury slowed down the group of illegal immigrants she was traveling with, and she was left behind.

... had saved her money to hire a smuggler to get her to Oregon ...

Damn! What an unfeeling, inconsiderate country America must be, to force her to save her money to hire a smuggler. And when the smuggler didn't perform as expected, whose fault is it?

Ilse has lost her sister.It could happen to anyone.
I've lost pens, sun-glasses, money and my virtue. Somehow, I've never quite managed to lose my sister.

Whether Ilse's sister is hospitalized, incarcerated or dead is anyone's guess.

And when Ilse Lopez heard that the Mexican Consulate would be in Salem on Saturday, she showed up to see what options she had.

"I love my sister," Lopez said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "She left three children in Mexico with our parents."

This is like buying a used Chevy Citation, financing it through GMAC, and suing the USA when the the car goes 'missing'.
America holds the warranty.
Lopez wrings her hands, imagining the treacherous journey that her sister embarked upon last fall.

Returning to Chiapas to seek help is not an option financially for Ilse Lopez, so she reached out to the Mexican government here.

"Financially" not an option? What are the priorities here? At least Ilse has the grace to wring her hands. (So did Pontius Pilate.)

" Luis Elias, head of the department of protection for the Mexican Consulate, urged Lopez to provide a photograph of her sister so he could request an official investigation from the consular offices in Arizona."

In the midst of all this negative commentary on Ms. Lopez's attempts to find out what happened to her sister, it appears that something positive may occur after all.

I'm confused by all of this ... comentary ... from the Statesman Journal. Ilse Lopez seems to be a caring, loving person. She is worried about her sister, understandably so.

But what about the conditions which are so hopeless that the mother of three feels the only opportunity she has is to illegally enter a foreign country ... at great risk of her own life? I'm sure that Aide struggled to find an answer which would allow her to stay with her children. It must have been a difficult decision for her to make.

Who's the villain here? It doesn't seem to be either of the two sisters, who are only trying to make a decent living. It can't be America, which only wishes to preserve the integrity of its own borders (an even more vital consideration, in this age of terrorism.)

We're running out of candidates for villainism here. The only one I can see is the Mexican Government.

Sure, they're willing to set up a booth in Oregon where their citizens wait all day for a minimum of help.

Where were they when their citizens found themselves in such mean circumstances that their only hope was to leave their families, their children, and risk their lives in a venture which, under the most benign turn of events, will require years of separation and hard work before they can be reunited?

I have a great deal of respect for Mexican 'migrants'. Those whom I've met are hard workers; honest, decent people who only want to make a decent living for their families.

But there are 'the other kind' as well. Predators, who find the pickings much richer in a richer land. How is America to sort them out?

It's not Mexico's problem. The Mexican government is perfectly willing to export both their indigent and their predators, and then to criticize the U.S. government for the way we deal with their emmigrants.

There are no good solutions here. But if there were, the best would be for Mexico to take care of its citizens ; to provide jobs, a decent standard of living, and the kind of social welfare for which it seems to prefer that America accepts the responsibility.

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