Wednesday, 1 February 2012

You had me until the last paragraph

This NYT article on Pomona College dismissing 15 workers who were unable to present evidence of their legal presence and right to work had me mildly sympathetic to the various workers’ plight, until the second-to-last paragraph rolled around and I had a “WTF?” moment:

Still, it does little to reassure Carmen, 30, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of alerting immigration officials. Carmen had worked at the college for 11 years, using the money she earned to put herself through a public college. But she never looked for another job, fearing that she would not be able to produce the proper documents. For years she made about $8 an hour, but in recent years raises had increased her wages to nearly $17 an hour. She and her husband bought a modest home in nearby Pomona this fall and moved in just two weeks before she was fired.

“I really don’t know what I am going to do,” she said, adding that her options were to look for work that paid in cash or move back to Mexico with her 2-year-old son while her husband, an American citizen, stayed here. “I’m still in shock. This is the only thing I’ve really ever known.”

So, to review, Carmen is legally married to a U.S. citizen, and presumably has been for a while. Thus she is eligible to legally emigrate to, and then legally work in, the United States, and presumably has been for a while. According to the government, she may not even have to leave the country to do so.

Again I accept, and even sympathize with, the argument that many people come illegally (or, almost as commonly, overstay their legal immigration visas) in part because they are ineligible to “stand in line” for legal status because they lack citizen immediate relatives, or would have to wait for years under the quota limits for relatives, as Greg Weeks often points out. But in the cases of people who are eligible to immediately normalize their status and comply with the law, as it appears this particular individual is, and apparently just can’t be bothered to do so, my sympathy meter is pretty much pegged on empty.