As the debate over the Arizona immigration law and the prospects for national comprehensive immigration reform continues, there are a few misconceptions that understandably, the general population seems to have about many undocumented workers. U.S. immigration laws are complex and out-dated and a great deal of time needs to be devoted to gain even a reasonable understanding of how the system works.
The most frequent and frustrating among these misconceptions that the general population has about the undocumented is that these people just need to get their papers in order rather to be here legally. For the great majority of these individuals, this is exactly what they would like to do. Current law does not offer that option. This is what comprehensive immigration reform should help to take care of in part. A law that would require undocumented individuals to pay a fine, get their fingerprints taken, learn English and file the appropriate forms to “get their papers” is precisely what the far right has in the past decried as amnesty and opposes so harshly.
Moreover, in most instances, undocumented persons who came to the United States to work hard and support their families are not violent criminals. Some “journalists” who are masters of manipulating this issue, will provide isolated examples of undocumented individuals who commit crimes to prove the point that most of these people are violent, criminal illegals that must be stopped before they kill us all. This is fear-mongering, selective reporting, and is not based in fact. Remember from logic class: If Johnny ate a rotten tomato, it does not mean all tomatoes are rotten.
Those who have entered the country illegally usually have not had opportunities to do so legally in the context of our current immigration system. These people frequently spend more money paying a human smuggler and risk their lives doing so than it would cost them to hire a lawyer, and file the appropriate form to come legally – once again, our laws do not provide for such options. There is a demand for these individuals to do work for U.S. businesses because if there were not, they would be be here.
I think that pro-immigrant groups have done a reasonable job making their points. However, the anti-immigration groups have been masters at framing the immigration issue for years. The term “illegal” that is now used by the mainstream media is one example of the great success anti-immigration groups have had in framing the immigration debate.