Have you ever stopped to wonder why there are so many illegal immigrants in the US? Many of you like to believe that it’s because these immigrants are just wanting to avoid paying taxes and scam the system, but I believe otherwise. And I believe otherwise because I have lived contrary to this assumption.
There was a period of time when I was an illegal immigrant in the US. And I know what some of you might say, “Oh the government isn’t worried about someone like you.” Why is that? Is it because I’m white? Because I’m educated? Because I can afford to hire an immigration lawyer? The other night at work I was asked, “What is your opinion on immigration in the United States?” To which I saw an opening, an opening to educate the typical ignorant American.
Most illegal immigrants are not illegal for the aforementioned reason. Most illegal immigrants are illegal because it is so difficult to become legal. Last year, I went through this process of maintaining my legal immigration status. And it was a fucking nightmare. Initially I had considered receiving sponsorship through an H1-B work visa, until I found out that all applications must be accepted by early April and approval for work passed in October. In addition to this, there is a 60,000 person cap for this particular visa meaning that even if you do have sponsorship, only 1 in 4 individuals will actually be approved and accepted. Given that it was mid-April, this was no longer an option for me.
At a loss, I really did not know what other alternatives I had. So I sought out an immigration lawyer…for $3,000. And that’s on the cheaper end of things. In order to receive services, I had to pay this money upfront, which thankfully I had enough saved to do so. After exchanging a few emails, she informed me of a visa that was specific for Australians; the E3. There were no cap limits, nor any deadline to apply – seems perfect right? Until you hear the stipulations.
In order to apply for the E3 visa, I needed to have a bachelor’s degree, which thankfully, I did. But I needed to receive sponsorship in a field that pertained to this major. Because I studied psychology, that made my options incredibly limited if not impossible. Despite having a minor in coaching, the visa requirements specify that it must be in a field that I majored in. Not only was I needing to find an organisation willing to sponsor me with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology (which essentially eliminates any company in the mental health field), but they needed to be willing to pay me the salary of whatever position I was being sponsored for.
Fortunately I had developed a strong relationship with Cherokee Soccer Association and the directors offered to sponsor me as a mental coach. Awesome. Now all I needed to do was fly back to Australia, fly to Perth, Sydney, or Melbourne, have an interview, and then come back to the States, be accepted into the states, and stay in this job and only this job for the next 2-4 years. So $2,500 for the return flight back to Australia, $500 for the flight to Perth, and $500 for visa processing fees, we’re now at a total cost of $6,500 just to stay in the States legally.
Is it not hard to imagine then, that many immigrants that enter the United States do not have access to this kind of money and thus, cannot afford to go through the process of becoming legal? Ah, but what about a green card I hear you say. This is something I have seriously looked into, because who wouldn’t want ultimate freedom to work wherever they wanted in the US? After all, it is deemed to be the land of the free. Here’s the thing, one can only receive a green card through marriage, through investing some hundreds of thousands of dollars into a business, whilst proving that they will be hiring Americans, or through the green card lottery (which isn’t offered to all countries). And trust me, I seriously considering that first option, but with the risk of being fined $200,000 and going to jail? It wasn’t worth the risk. Nor could I find a willing candidate if I’m being entirely honest.
And the green card lottery? There’s application deadlines for that too. And the lottery isn’t drawn until May of every year, to allow access for the following year. So basically, you need to be planning your stay in the US two to three years in advance, and for anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do in the future, that’s almost impossible to do.
The other catch for work visas, and the E3 visa that I’m on, is that I am tied to my job for the next 2-4 years. Which doesn’t seem that bad right? Wrong. At least for me. Being tied to a job makes me feel trapped and seems to contradict the foundation in which America was established; land of the free. So what about going back to school some might ask. Well, there are stipulations with a student visa, too – you cannot work whilst on an F1 visa except on campus and for a maximum of 20 hours a week. And when the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, you can’t exactly pay off the $15,000+ for graduate school.
America might be the land of opportunity, but it certainly isn’t accessible to anyone who is not an American citizen. And some of you think this is a good thing, but it’s not. Diversity is essential in making any country thrive. Without it, views, beliefs, and even ideas become stale and stagnant. Despite all of this, the current president of the United States is wanting to make it even harder to become legal in the US. Harder? It’s already almost impossible as it is. Perhaps instead of looking outward and assuming illegal immigrants do not want to pay taxes, it might serve this country to take a look at its own people and how certain owners can get away with not paying their staff, even the $2.13 they are entitled to, or giving them the W2 in which to pay taxes. I’m sure there are immigrants who do play the system, but I also know there are citizens playing the system too.
So basically, it’s ridiculously hard to stay in the United States and to remain legal, which is probably why there are so many illegal immigrants. I came here to play soccer and receive an education, which I have done. And I decided I wanted to stay and work, which I am doing. But if I am being completely honest, I’m not sure it’s worth it to go through this process again. So when my visa expires, perhaps it is another country that calls for me, one in which I can live freely.