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In a Seattle Times column, Naomi Ishisaka responds to her mail that demands undocumented immigrants to “get in line and do it the right way” by posing the question, “But what if the ‘legal’ door is padlocked and blockaded? What if it’s only open for five minutes a day and only if you can open it with your hands tied behind your back?”
In a time when “fair and just” Americans feel outraged over the immigrants who “break the rules” to enter the U.S., Ishisaka outlines the “multiple unsolvable dilemmas” that immigrants must face to pass through the legal immigration process that continues to shove immigrants away from the border.
Ishisaka’s column is excerpted below and available in full here:
The feeling of outrage toward immigrants who “break the rules” appeals to a particular sense of fairness and justice, one that assumes that if only people followed the law and got “in line,” opportunities afforded to previous generations of immigrants would be available to them. The perception seems to be that are two entry doors to the U.S.: one legal, the other illegal — and migrants just incomprehensibly choose the illegal door due to laziness, lack of respect for U.S. laws or desire to do harm.
But what if the “legal” door is padlocked and blockaded? What if it’s only open for five minutes a day and only if you can open it with your hands tied behind your back?
On virtually every level, “legal” paths to immigration have been barricaded or removed — a phenomenon known as the “invisible wall.”
The invisible wall is not a new invention in U.S. immigration policy but it has become taller, wider and more impenetrable under the Trump administration.
The overall philosophy for the invisible wall is summed up well by an email reported by NBC from a Trump National Security Council official discussing asylum processing with Customs and Border Patrol.
In the email, the official said, “My mantra has persistently been presenting aliens with multiple unsolvable dilemmas to impact their calculus for choosing to make the arduous journey to begin with.”
“Multiple unsolvable dilemmas” is a perfect way to describe our current “legal” immigration system, in which an already Byzantine set of complex policies change by the day.
There are four main legal pathways to the U.S.: family reunification, work visas, diversity lottery and asylum or refugee status. For each pathway, additional barriers are being erected to slow or stall migration.