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Prensa Libre, Guatemala

On Migrating North

By Alfred Kaltschmitt

If crossing the border and being able to get illegal work was an immigrant’s biggest dream before, imagine what would happen with the added incentive of obtaining quick residency or citizenship.

Translated By Slava Osowska

1 February 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Guatemala - Prensa Libre - Original Article (Spanish)

“Have you seen the news today on immigration?” asked one of the hotel employees where I found myself in Georgetown, Washington DC. “It seems like this time everyone is in agreement on passing a law to make us legal,” she said, with a certain air of cheerfulness and a hint of suspicion. Ana is one of the 11 million illegal migrants that work in the United States with false papers. It is a system that many call hypocritical, that knowingly turns a blind eye to the fact that without migrant labor, the backbone of the economy — agriculture, the service sector and construction—would not be able to survive.

“The day that we no longer have agricultural labor, everything you see here will go downhill. Federal, state and local governments know it,” Del Wisdom, a very successful farmer in the Tri-Cities Valley in the state of Washington, assured me a while ago. “And these assorted dragnets and deportations were created to manage excess demand,” he added. In 2012, over 411,000 people were deported.

In accordance with current laws, all employers must verify Social Security numbers and report if they do not match a worker’s identity. Few comply with this obligation. Social Security taxes are deducted monthly for millions of workers, and these billions of dollars deepen the coffers of the social welfare system and provide absolutely nothing in return.

This reality — and the fact that the issue of migration cannot continue in this “no-man’s land” — has convinced both the Republicans and the Democrats to establish a committee that recently submitted a proposal for the boldest overhaul of the system of migration in more than three decades. It proposed a speedy approach to quickly giving resident status to the 11 million undocumented, while retaining the right to bestow citizenship until the borders are secure and a new system of employer verification is put in place. This system, according to its detractors, would take decades to process, and it is one that President Obama is not in agreement with, preferring a more direct pathway to citizenship.

The law should be approved in March of this year, but it will have to overcome a few obstacles. Obama’s proposal allows gay couples to qualify for citizenship if one of the partners is an immigrant. Analysts predict almost certain opposition from the religious sector and conservatives. Nevertheless, according to the president’s spokesperson, the fact that there is a bipartisan proposal from a committee made up of four Republican and four Democratic senators is promising.

I personally believe that once the new law is approved there will be a mass exodus into the United States. It is practically impossible to close the border, although it is now more protected than ever. There will always be blind spots and small cracks through which coyotes will be able to sneak in their clients. If crossing the border and being able to get illegal work was an immigrant’s biggest dream before, imagine what would happen with the added incentive of obtaining quick residency or citizenship.

What is certain is that with or without a law, there are 50 million Hispanics in the United States, and the weight of their economic contribution is of such magnitude that for the first time, their vote was decisive in electing the president.

And they are expecting results…



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