- Posted June 16, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
President’s immigration plan: Your views
Waiting at the Airport
It’s hard to read about immigration these days, there are so many stories of people who come across the borders just wanting what everyone wants, to have a better life. I can’t blame them really. I never thought the immigration problem had anything to do with me. I am born to America, several generations back. I never thought much about it at all really, I used to believe that anyone could come to America if they wanted to, just fill out a visa form and buy the plane ticket. Then one day I became a mentor mom to several young people who came to the United States on the Fulbright Scholarship to study. I learned coming to America was not so easy.
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of knowing the great sacrifices many of these families have made just so their children can have an education. The students followed the program, attending required classes, doing community work, learning about American culture and making a difference in our world. They are ambassadors for their respective countries, teaching students and individuals here as much about their countries as we teach them about ours. Then the day comes when their program ends and we must put them back on the planes to return to their home country. It sounds simple. It wasn’t.
Along the journey these students become a part of your heart. You are left standing at the airport blinking back tears and wanting to somehow make a difference in their lives. The young people who became a part of my life are from Pakistan and Egypt. In the years since they have returned to their countries I have watched the turmoil with my heart in my throat.Each time Egypt is in chaos or as in this past month when the airport in Karachi was attacked, I think about these students and their families who have become like my own family.
The J-1 visa seems like a wonderful thing, it is what brings these students to America, however it comes with a deeper cost than one might first imagine. It is like bringing young people to America and taking them to Disneyland. They see all the good and wonderful things that life has to offer, things that are often far out of their reach in their own home countries. Then when their year of study is up they are shipped back.
Is it the right thing to do? I can’t say really. What I can say however is that in the year they are with us there are human ties that are made, emotions and connections that are very strong and then suddenly they are ripped away by a mandate that says they must return for at least two years.
Two years can seem like an eternity, not only for them but also for the family they have become a part of while in the United States. Even so at first I thought it would be alright, we can get through two years and then they can return. It should be simple, they have been here already and I will simply help them come again.
Immigration is not so simple. Obtaining a simple visa to return is not so simple; foolish as I was to believe such a thing. I thought that if you followed the rules and did things the correct way it should not be difficult.
I watch the news and I feel sorry for the many stories I have heard about those desperate enough to come to America illegally. I can’t imagine what they have gone through to get here at the same time however, I am consumed by those who have followed the rules and done everything by law. In these past few months two of my mentor children have been denied visas to return.
I feel I have failed them somehow because I believed in a system that should be fair. Instead what I see is an America that is more willing to reach out and help those who come illegally than it is to open its doors to those who follow the rules. Perhaps one day our politicians will realize that when you encourage bad behavior and ignore those who follow the rules, you get the results we now have within our borders.
One of the students married an American girl while he was here. In the two years since he returned to his native home of Pakistan they have lived their lives on skype. Their relationship is real, I know because I was there at their wedding. Two years later they are still waiting to be reunited. They followed the rules. Their story is just as important as all those shown on the news these days about families seperated because they came illeglally.
Immigration is an important issue for every American, one that needs to be addressed with thought and compassion not only for those already within our borders but for those who wait in long never ending lines of bureaucracy and denial.