Problems with Legal Immigration? Here's One!

When I've suggested in the past that people immigrate to the US illegally in large part because our legal immigration system is broken, I've had people tell me that our legal system is just fine. The Thorsted family doesn't think so, and I agree.

"The system is broken, in my eyes," [Mr. Thorsted] said.
"It just doesn't make any sense. You've got a family that wants to be together, it's just inevitable we're going to be together."

Johana and Aaron Thorsted were married in 2003. They immediately began the process of applying for her legal immigrant status. As a result of Aaron being called to active duty military to serve in Iraq, they were penalized--the application process had to be put on hold.

Because she had been in an illegal status before they met, she had to return to her native Guatemala to apply for a waiver of a 10-year ban from the United States. There she sits with her two daughters, one of which has lost her English fluency, and the other of which her father has never seen.

It appears that the biggest problem facing the Thorsteds now is the large backlog of cases at the US Embassy in Guatemala.

"It's so hard," [Mrs. Thorsted] said. "It's really hard to be here without my husband. I miss him so much. ... I just want to go back to my house and have a normal life like other people have."

The more difficult a government makes it for anything to be accomplished legally, whether it be driving a car, hiring and paying employees, or applying for legal resident status, the greater the likelihood is that more and more people will attempt to circumvent the bureaucracy. I applaud the patience of the Thorsted family that they have not.

But this is a huge immigration problem. Bureacracy should never stand in the way of a family's attempt to live together, let alone the wishes of the everyday immigrant-to-be.

Whether it's the process that needs to be streamlined, or simply that more immigration personnel need to be placed in the embassy, I don't know. But people are watching. They know how difficult it is to become a citizen legally. And that is very likely why so many people are taking the much less circuitous route to becoming an American.


  1. Mark Steyn, himself an immigrant, says that one of the major problems with U.S. immigration policy is that it's application is accomplished in a hodge-podge arbitrary manner. Every official kind of makes up the rules as they go. And any single official can completely ruin somebody's life.

    This issue holds special interest for me, since I am the son of an immigrant. My dad was able to come here legally 51 years ago. The process has become much more cumbersome since his time.

  2. Is this what his new book, "America Alone" is about?

  3. Steyn mentions this problem in America Alone, but that is not the thrust of the book. The book is less about American than it is about the rest of the Western world. Steyn cannily demonstrates how things are changing demographically, especially in Europe, and shows how this is impacting culture, lifestyle, and policy.

    Steyn extrapolates current trends into the future using relatively conservative numbers to show how substantially populations (and therefore cultures) will change. Much of this is already apparent in Western Europe. Steyn notes that within several decades Europe will be mostly populated by Muslims, and that the resultant cultural shift will be rather dramatic.

    Steyn's thesis is that if something doesn't change, America will eventually stand alone as the last bastion of Western culture.

    The book is scary -- in some ways too scary, and in other ways not scary enough. As is the problem with trend projection, it is always impossible to predict unforeseen future events that could change the trend.

  4. Interesting. Thanks for the info. I'll definitely put that one on my reading list!

  5. Frank, I'm with you on this one. I have personal experience dealing with immigration, and it ain't customer-friendly. In fact, I once had to ask Senator Hatch's office to intervene because the bureaucrats took more than a year to process some simple paperwork. You can't get an answer to a simple question on the phone, you have to go wait in line for everything. I think they don't care because most of the people who they deal with don't have the right to vote.


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