Immigration reform continues to stagnate on the national agenda as opponents to immigration reform continue to focus on the notion that immigrating into the United States is not a broken system. The general rhetoric from the anti-immigration agenda is that immigrants are welcome as long as they “do it the right way”. What they continue to ignore is that the immigration issue is much more complicated than the “right way” because of how the US immigration process is based on a hodgepodge of sometimes incompatible laws and processes.
A 10-year police detective with an “exemplary record” at the Arizona Department of Public Safety resigned from the police department on December 9, 2013. Carmen Figueroa, an undocumented alien who was born in Mexico spent her life believing she was a US citizen. It wasn’t until she confronted her mother about her actual birth city that she learned that she was actually a citizen of Mexico.
Although we do not know the full circumstances of Figueroa’s family life what we know at this point is that Carmen Figueroa learned about her status after her brother, who is serving in the US military, applied for a US passport. According to news media reports, Carmen Figueroa provided documents as part of the hiring process of the Arizona DPS that included a Texas driver’s license, a birth certificate as well as a high school diploma from California.
Figueroa’s, experience as we know it to be now, is representative of many undocumented aliens that prior to 2001 grew up believing they were US citizens. I believe that many more continue to serve in government and security forces completely oblivious to their actual status. The knee-jerk reaction for many anti-immigration proponents is that she should have known that she was not a US citizen.
However, is this really a reality?
As you read this consider if you have ever stopped and asked yourself, was I really born where my parent’s told me that I was? Think about this for a moment. When was the first time you asked your parents for a copy of your birth certificate? For most of you, it was when you were looking to apply for your driver’s license. For most of you, your parents handed you a piece of paper and off you went to driving class and then off to college or to get a job.
Not once did you stop and ask yourself is this really my birth certificate?
What if it wasn’t? What if your parents handed you a fake birth certificate? When your parents made the decision to lie about your birth city and acquire the necessary documents for you, you had no opportunity to make the decision for yourself. Does that make you an “illegal”?
It is ironic that this example of a broken immigration system is playing out in the most immigrant intolerant state in the nation; Arizona. The home state of the infamous SB 1070 that targeted undocumented immigrants is now faced with the sobering fact that documented immigration is not as simple as “doing it the right way”.
Carmen Figueroa is not an isolated case of someone believing themselves to be US citizens as many more examples exist including many in the US armed forces. Figueroa apparently learned about her status very recently as a result of her brother’s actions. How many more undocumented aliens haven’t realized the truth about their individual status? As if Arizona’s anti-immigration rhetoric wasn’t enough, consider Ted Cruz and the murkiness about his allegiance to the US flag. As you might remember on my blog post; “Ted Cruz and Immigration” I pointed out that Ted Cruz held dual citizenship meaning he had allegiance to two flags and possibly could claim citizenship to a Communist regime by virtue of his father.
The fact that the poster boy for the anti-immigration Tea Party didn’t even know he held Canadian citizenship should be sufficient to show that immigrating the “right way” is not as simple as the anti-immigrants would have you believe.
Carmen Figueroa gives us another example of the complexities of the immigration experience. I know the Tea Party will continue to believe the notion that immigration is as simple as “doing it the right way”, however this notion does not represent the reality. Until individuals accept the fact that the immigration process in the US is broken there will continue to be many Carmen Figueroa’s who give back to the country under the belief they belong.
The truth is that Figueroa is as much a member of her Arizona community as any US citizen is. But for the fact of a broken immigration system her many years of service would be recognized today rather than her living in fear that she might be incarcerated for a “crime” she apparently had no way to commit because in her mind there was no law to break.
A note on comments: I realize that this issue is a very polarizing one. I encourage you to comment however I will not allow the use of “illegal alien” in your comments.