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Immigration: a consequential topic

| Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Imagine you’re young again. You’re a 13-year-old girl and you’ve got your innocence, you’re curious and your whole life is ahead of you. Imagine now that you live in a majority-Muslim country. Imagine your father sells you into marriage with a 35-year-old man. Imagine your mother is almost beaten to death because she tries to stop your father, and she flees to another country. You won’t talk to her for eight years. Imagine now that your new husband brings you to nightclubs, forcing you into prostitution for his own profit. Imagine your escape efforts — sometimes even to other countries, only to be caught and beaten. Imagine this goes on for over seven years until you are finally able to escape. You escape to another country and track down your mother who is now a U.S. citizen. She books you a flight, and you enter the United States as a visitor.

You have finally made it to the U.S., where your mother is a citizen by virtue of her bona fide marriage to a citizen. Your visitor status expires in just a few months — at which point you become an overstay, or “out of status.” Some might call you an “illegal immigrant.” You have no high school or college education, because your youth was robbed from you.

Imagine there is no form of immigration relief available to you. You aren’t an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen because you are over the age of 21. You aren’t eligible for asylum because you don’t fall into the overly restrictive categories of recognized victim groups. You aren’t a “victim of human trafficking” according to the Department of Homeland Security, because you didn’t arrive in the U.S. as a direct result of human trafficking. Your options: go “home,” stay. If you go home, your father likely finds you because you have no friends, family, money, education, skills and nowhere to go. If you stay, you may not work. If you are ever caught, you might go to jail — or be at risk of deportation. It does not matter that your mom is a U.S. citizen.

Imagine this isn’t a hypothetical. Imagine that girl — still waiting out of status, hoping that one of the applications she sent in to Homeland Security will stick, because truth-be-told, she really doesn’t fit in any of the categories.

Cases like this are not rare, unfortunately. In my time working with an immigration attorney I saw many cases where common sense would say, “of course this person should be allowed to stay here,” but the hyper-complex immigration code said otherwise. My purpose for writing this is not to ruffle feathers or to convince readers of anything. I merely write to inspire compassion when considering such a consequential topic.


Joshua Levitt

second year of law

Nov. 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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