“Fear grips immigrant community in wake of Carcieri’s executive order” screams the headline of a Rhode Island Catholic story that doesn’t appear to be online. For all of the talk about divisiveness, I’d wager that there’s a fundamental disconnect from side to side in reaction to such details as this:
The undocumented people who are targeted by Carcieri’s order are often people whose families and even children are American citizens, according to [Stella Carrera, coordinator of Immigration and Refugee Services for the Diocese of Providence]. They often enter the country with legal visas to visit family, work temporarily or study and, once the visas expire, do not return to their native countries to await being awarded legal immigrant status from the U.S.
The waiting list for people to become citizens, even for those being sponsored by a family member, are often backlogged for nearly a decade, according to data provided by Carrera. Someone who wants to become an American citizen is forced to make a difficult decision: either be separated from their American families for years while awaiting legal status, or stay in the country illegally to work or raise a family and hope they can keep a low profile.
The conspicuous silence begins with the introduction of individual agency: Legal visitors, temporary workers, and students should be aware that their time here is limited. That’s spelled out explicitly in the expired documents of the now-undocumented. Having to choose between a low, illegal profile, a period of separation, or the relocation of the whole family to another country while waiting for new documents (a never-mentioned option) was a wholly foreseeable possibility.
Keep an eye on that passive voice: “Someone who wants to become an American citizen is forced to make a difficult decision.” Forced by whom? By a law of which that person was surely aware long ago, or by his or her own prior decisions and a native country that creates the incentive to flee, even if doing so means becoming a stationary fugitive?
If religious leaders truly wish to play a considered, unifying role in the heated immigration dispute, they ought to be at least as vocal in encouraging the immigrants and activists to do everything they can to prove their desire to ease into America on its own terms — as opposed to chanting about citizens’ inability to defeat them.