Legal Alien

I’m finally a legal inhabitant of America – or at least, as legal as I’m likely to be for the next couple of years. Being now married to an American, I’m going through the process of applying for status as a permanent resident, rather than the visiting worker which I arrived as. The current waiting list for an interview to determine whether I’m eligible is 28 months – and we can’t really blame 9/11 for much of that, it’s just the wheels of American bureaucracy, grinding exceeding slow.

Generously, while your application is being processed, they allow you to work, and also to leave the country – and, perhaps more importantly, come back into it as well. Mind you, you still have to leap through a bunch of hoops in order to work at Starbucks and go to Cancun, though the actual process involves a lot less leaping, than sitting around in waiting rooms with a lot of Mexicans. Bring a book – you rapidly discover that a 10 am appointment, doesn’t actually mean you’re going to get seen at 10 am. It really just means you start waiting at 10 am. Bring a packed lunch, too.

It does give you plenty of time to contemplate the alternatives; it’s clear why so many people choose to bypass all the tedious form-filling, and simply come in, live and work illegally. It helps that the government shows little or no interest in prosecuting the employers, who are delighted to pay below American minimum wage to people, who are delighted to earn less than American minimum wage, since it’s still a lot more than they would get at home. Everybody wins.

Or so the liberal commentators would have you believe – the ones who refer to “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants. Speaking as a documented, legal immigrant, I’m not quite so convinced; given they’ve shown such a flagrant disregard for American laws in coming here, why should we think they’re otherwise going to be law-abiding citizens once they get here? For example, they can’t get driving licences – and rightly so, since if we make it easy for the illegals, what’s the point of having a legal process, which makes it most unlikely they’ll bother with car insurance. If one of them hits you, all you’ll see is likely a tattered pair of Nikes making off at top speed on foot.

It’s a point of particular interest, given the unemployment figures here are at a long-time high. Sure, a lot of the jobs taken by illegal immigrants are not those you or I would want to do, but how can anyone compete with desperate people, from a nation barely beyond a Third World level of development? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: illegal immigrants do the work cheap, thereby ensuring that legal residents (also much more likely to have to pay tax and other deductions) simply can’t afford to take the jobs. And all the while, the government wrings its hands, unwilling to interfere with pure capitalism in action.

Say what you like, at least illegal immigration was never a problem in the Soviet Union…