Young Immigrant Breaks Down While Sharing Her ‘Greatest Fear’ With Obama

una abuelaYesterday, President Obama hosted a town-hall for young voters that aired on MTV, BET and CMT. During the discussion, a young woman brought up the immigration issue in an unexpected way. Anna, a Colombian immigrant, explained to President Obama that she has been waiting for her green card which would allow her to live and work in the U.S. permanently for three years. Anna broke into tears when she told the President that she fears that she may not receive her green card in time to visit her 92 year-old grandmother one last time:

ANNA: Hi Mr. President, my name is Anna and I wanted to share with you my greatest fear. I moved here when I was 14 in 2003 and I followed every legal step. I come from Colombia and I’m waiting for my green card and I have been waiting for it for about three years. My grandma turned 92 and I’m afraid that my green card will not get here in time for me to see her one last time.

OBAMA: Well first of all, say hi to your grandma for me.

ANNA: On the phone, yeah.

OBAMA: And second of all, one of the things we’re trying to do to deal with the immigration issue is to accelerate the process for legal immigration. This is something we don’t talk a lot, a lot of the focus is on illegal immigration.

We’re a nation of immigrants, so the question is how do we make legal immigration faster, less bureaucratic, cut the red tape. So I’ll be interested in finding out after maybe this session from you what your experience has been with the office because what we’re trying to do is reduce the backlog so that those people like yourself who are doing things the right way and the legal way that you don’t get so tangled up in a bunch of bureaucracy that you end up being discouraged.

Anna’s situation is not unique. In 2005, the Washington Post wrote, “hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers trying to stay in the United States find their journey halted somewhere along a maze of boxes, filing cabinets and cubicles of government contractors.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association estimates that there are 3.5 million people on the the visa queue waiting for the proportionally small handful of visas the U.S. makes available.

For green card applicants in the U.S., leaving the country before they receive their visa is not a good idea. Those who want to leave the country can apply for advanced parole, which simply establishes that Customs and Border Protection may decide to parole in the person when he or she attempts to re-enter the U.S. at a port of entry. However, admission is by no means guaranteed. In other words, by going to Colombia, Anna could risk both her current and future immigration status.

As Obama explains, one of the goals of his administration has been to reduce the green card backlog. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service launched a new web site aimed to cut down on the long lines, waiting times, and paperwork that has been contributing to the backlog.

andrea nill

Andrea Christina Nill

However, there are two types of backlogs: processing backlogs, and backlogs caused by higher demand for immigration than the quotas set by the law allow. The Obama administration can do something about processing backlogs, however it’s up to Congress to reform the immigration system.Currently, the visa system is currently outdated by over twenty years and does not meet the needs or demands of a 21st century globalized economy — let alone immigrant families.

Andrea Christina Nill

Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room


  1. Annette says

    “…it’s up to Congress to reform the immigration system. Currently, the visa system is currently outdated by over twenty years and does not meet the needs or demands of a 21st century globalized economy…”

    Reform the system? You really mean allow more and more people to move to this country and become residents and citizens here, don’t you? Let’s be honest, that is what this whole debate is all about.

    What’s changed in the past 20 years that makes the immigration system outdated? American companies have already outsourced many of the jobs we used to have for Americans. The new globalized economy means that US companies are no longer restricted by those silly American employment laws, like minimum wage, 8 hour days, OSHA safety rules, workers compensation laws, and, oh yeah, that really pesky one big companies really hate, our child labor laws that prevent them from destroying the lives of children in other countries whose parents make them work for 10-16 hours a day so they can feed their families.

    Liberals use the expression “immigration reform” to refer to their plan for massive increases in immigration numbers. The goal is to speed up the process by which people from other countries can come here to work, then to become citizens.
    So do you think we don’t have enough problems with losing American jobs to outsourcing, a recession resulting in massive layoffs as the number of jobs available plummets, and immigrants competing with American citizens for the few jobs that are remaining. With all that going on and more Americans than ever dropping out of the middle class into poverty, liberals are still hell bent on increasing the number of immigrants allowed into the country.

    Wow, the naivete of the left is mind boggling. For all of you young folks in college thinking that it would just be NICE, and the right thing to do to increase immigration quotas… After all, our president even supports immigration increases, cough, reform… Well good luck with that career you hoped for after you get out of college. You could be demanding other nations match our labor laws, or demanding American companies not profit from child labor in other countries, and instead you’re turning America into a third world nation by opening the gates to millions of people from poor countries all across the world who want to live here instead of their birth countries. Your nice college degree is going to mean squat after you graduate because those millions of people will be taking advantage of your generosity in allowing them to move here and compete with you for those jobs. Good luck, suckers. Remember, fifteen years from now as you’re living in an America that looks more like Mexico or India, think about the fact that you, as a good liberal, were one of those demanding that we “reform” immigration to “streamline it” and allow more and more people in. Because, after all, it’s only FAIR that you should have to work for minimum pay for the rest of your life, right? Oh, that is, if we can even KEEP our minimum pay laws as the economy here collapses…

    • Nancy, Ojai says

      Applicants for legal immigration are chosen from a very large pool of people. It’s nowhere even close to all applicants being granted an immigrant visa; it’s a relatively small number who are allowed in the US and they are chosen by lottery. The US is limited by standing quotas; every country has a different quota.
      Those attempting to immigrate legally include those who are granted politcal asylum, immediate family members of US residents/citizens, and highly skilled workers (there are plenty of foreign medical graduates who work in severly underserved rural areas where there are few doctors). Companies who import workers must prove they haven’t found US employees who meet their specific needs.
      None of this has to do with liberals. It’s already in the INS guidelines, and has been for many years.

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