|Clemente Pacaja lights the stove as he begins preparing his daughter Keyle's breakfast.|
I have a story today at NJ Spotlight on the difficulties faced by families with "split" immigration status -- families in which at least one person has legal status (as a legal resident or citizen) and one lacks legal status. They struggle with the immigration bureaucracy, and live in constant fear that their families will be split up -- that a parent, a spouse, a child may be deported, or that the entire family might be forced to live in exile.
Current immigration law in the United States is family based -- meaning it gives preference to reuniting families over most other motivations. Most immigrants, if they are to come legally, must prove family connections or have a family member petition for their entry.
There is a larger debate to be had about immigration -- I tend to believe we assume freedom of movement as a human right and that restricting it can only be defended for very specific and delineated reasons. (David Miller discusses it here, though I think some of his reasoning is incomplete). Those reasons can and should be debated and might include safety and economic concerns, on both sides -- i.e., protecting the safety and economic security of the United States, but also recognizing that immigrants often are fleeing from unsafe and economically insecure nations.
Comprehensive reform has been stymied by immigration hardliners in the Republican Party, and with the election of Donald Trump we can assume that, rather than debating comprehensive reform, we will be arguing over deportations, a border wall, religious and national entry bans and so on.
In the meantime, I want to give Clemente Pacaja a chance to speak in his own words. The video is in Spanish, and a translation (done by Maria Juega of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund) is provided below:
Good morning and good afternoon.
Thanks to all those people who will be watching me on the internet or on television. I am a husband who has petitioned for his wife in Guatemala. Unfortunately, there was a question she could not answer and she remains in Guatemala.
I want to give thanks to all the people who are helping me. Especially, Mrs. Sara Batres, and my Congresswoman Mrs. Watson-Coleman. May God bless and protect them wherever they are. And also, the journalist who interviewed me, I wish them all the best.
I hope that my story is heard by people who have a similar case to my wife’s so we can be in contact with one another and figure out what we can do with the immigration officers in Guatemala, who are coming down hard, by questioning people who are led to believe that all they are going down for is to get their visas legally and come right back. But it actually does not happen like this. So now you have to think twice whether to trust that your loved ones can rely on the waiver that supposedly they were given, so I am really asking that if there are other Guatemalans with similar cases let’s get in touch with one another and raise our voices so that this doesn’t keep happening. And I am very sincerely grateful and may God help you and protect you.