I genuinely do not understand the uproar over the idea that adult illegal immigrants may be deported. I have lived as an immigrant in two countries and as a legal foreign resident in two others. I was not permitted to enter any of them illegally and then issued legal permission to stay. I needed to file the correct paperwork and wait. To say it was stressful is an understatement. In one instance, my permission was denied. Not only did I have to go through the entire process again, I had to leave the country, uncertain if on the second try my visa would be approved and I could re-enter. It was a huge financial and bureaucratic burden, but I had no other option.
That’s why I’m confounded when people claim that having an immigration policy is racist, or that deporting illegal residents is racist. Again, in all of those four countries, people were often deported if they entered the country illegally, or if they committed a felony. And yes, each of those countries had strict restrictions on immigration. There isn’t a nation I know of that doesn’t.
In some cases, it was quotas on individuals in certain professions. In another, there were quotas on immigrants from outside the European Union. All had detention centers for people who entered claiming they were refugees. They were required to live in these centers until their status as a refugee could be determined. In one of the countries, those people were not even permitted to work until they officially became classed as refugees, a process that can take years. Restrictive, indeed. By the way, all four countries were liberal democracies.
When I lived as an immigrant I understood that I was in a precarious position. Until I achieved permanent residency, which I did in only one of the countries, I knew that my time could easily run out, my visa denied. That’s what makes immigration brave. It’s very risky.
So when I look at these protesters, I have to wonder how much any of them really know about immigration.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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