Married Couple Who Live On Different Sides of the U.S.-Mexico Border Further Proof of America's Stupid Immigration Laws


As Nick Gillespie noted below, immigration policy is warped here in the U.S. But it's not just the fault of Republicans or that awfully Republican-like Barack Obama. Today's dose of U.S. immigration policy sure is broken and is breaking up lives comes from the the Associated Press. Their tale describes the lives of Ana and Agustin Portillo, a married couple who are stuck on either side of the Mexico-U.S. border, a life-limbo that has its origins in Clinton-era legislation.

Ana, a formerly illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is in Los Angeles where the couple lived together for twenty years. But Agustin, a Mexican immigrant, has been living in Tijuana for two years. Ana comes to visit him on the weekends. And if she wanted to, she could probably move to Tijuana and live with him (at least the crime rate is dropping!). They were separated because Agustin became ill and returned to Mexico for three months to visit with his sisters and nephews in case it was his last chance to do so. Sneaking back into the U.S. was not as easy when he tried to come home. And since he has twice already been caught illegally crossing into the U.S., he's afraid of being permanently barred from entry.

Agustin is unskilled and he doesn't even seem to know what country he wants to live in! He's not exactly putting ont he red, white, and blue shirt and committing to America First. Except that that's the whole point of the absurdity of this system; to cross a border, especially when you have family on both sides, should be easier than this.

And in spite of their status as a ready-made wacky plot point for sitcoms, green card marriages are not as easy to pull of as portrayed. In 1996, Clinton signed immigration legislation that punished immigration violaters more harshly than previously. This included barring people who stayed illegally in the U.S. for more than 180 days from coming back for three years; people who illegally stay for more than a year are barred for a decade.  

Says the AP:

Under the law, the immigrant and their spouse must file a visa petition and attend an interview with a U.S. Consulate in their native land. There, the undocumented immigrant learns they are ineligible to live in the United States because they entered the country illegally or illegally overstayed a tourist visa….

This is the category Agustin likely falls in. He isn't certain. For years, he has been too terrified too apply for a visa, fearful that the application would cause him more trouble than good.

The law does allow for some exceptions. The couples can apply for an extreme hardship waiver to avoid the ban. For example, a terminally ill husband might argue that he needs his immigrant wife to care for him and he can't move to her native country because it has inadequate health care.

But the law does not define extreme hardship and case law suggests the government does not consider factors such as children or the potential earning losses of the spouse moving to the immigrant's home country.

In all, the State Department barred 22,000 people from re-entering the country for up to 10 years in 2010, up from roughly 13,000 in 2006. Nearly 19,000 people eventually received waivers allowing them to avoid the multi-year ban last year.

CBS News points to an immigration lawyer who believes 3.4 million immigrants are in Agustin's boat. They might qualify for the hardship waiver, but they are afraid of drawing attention to themselves and being banned from the U.S. so they don't apply.

Reason on immigration. And as Ron Bailey noted below, Reason's October 2008 issue deftly explained why this whole process isn't as easy as closed-borders/legal immigration advocates suggest.

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  1. Which country has the best immigration policy in the world?

    1. Luxemborg.

      No chance at all for those icky brown people to spoil anything.

  2. This where I part company with Libertarian theology. Borders are rational. WE, Americans, have created a contract with each other. There is one in writing, the Constitution, but there is another unwritten social contract, that I have made with my fellow Americans. Those agreements, if they are going to be successful, require mutuality. The article above specifically states that the subject is,
    "not exactly putting on the red, white, and blue shirt and committing to America First."
    That is a clear statement of why the concept of open borders makes little sense. Borders are also created to protect those inside from those outside who would do harm. There are many in this world ready, willing and able to perpetrate great harm to US. Finally, there are many opportunities for persons in other counries to come to the U.S. I have trouble believing that anyone really believes in "open borders".

    1. I'm not open borders, but I'm also not that scared of immigration. Besides, I like the idea of serfs mowing my yard and stuff. Until we have robot slave labor, anyway.

      Probably the best answer is liberal immigration policies, easy work visa options for temps, then, for whatever is left, we can save our border-keeping and illegal-immigrant chasing for. Also, of course, we should get rid of the welfare state.

      1. WTF are we gonna do with the serfs once we have robots?

        They aren't gonna go quietly to the soylent green vats.

      2. ...and unicorns! There must be unicorns!

    2. A "social contract" sounds a lot more like a theological idea than a liberty oriented argument for open borders. The social contract has about as much to do with reality as the flying spaghetti monster.
      I certainly haven't created or agreed to any such contract, so I don't know what this "we" business is all about.

      I do agree with you to some extent. As long as the world is made up of nation states, borders do make sense in some ways. What doesn't make sense is arbitrary restrictions on crossing the border.

      1. What Zeb said.

      2. Do arbitrary restrictions on who can come onto your property make sense?

        Do arbitrary restrictions on who can come onto property owned by a group make sense?

        1. Absolutely... and if private property rights were analogous to the nation as a whole, you might have a point. They're not, so you don't.

          1. Tell me why a public owner loses the the ability to make decisions about who can and cannot enter its property.

            1. Tell us why you think the government owns the country and what that means for those of us who think we own our private property.

              No one is denying the government's authority to keep people out of federal buildings and off air force bases. The territory as a whole, however, is not property.

      3. I'm an old-fashioned sovereignty guy, which includes the idea that sovereign states have the authority and arguably obligation to control their borders.

        So, I'm not an open borders guy. Like a good little minarchist, though, I think that border restrictions should be limited to those necessary to protect the current residents of a country from violent criminals and people with communicable diseases.

        Sadly, these sorts of restrictions don't necessarily protect the current residents from various financial harms that open immigration can impose on a non-minarchist welfare/regulatory state.

        However, the restrictions necessary to accomplish that would still be far less than what we have now. Whether even these restrictions would be a good idea, on net, I have my doubts.

    3. The article above specifically states that the subject is,
      "not exactly putting on the red, white, and blue shirt and committing to America First."
      That is a clear statement of why the concept of open borders makes little sense.

      How? Does he have act like a Superficial SuperPatriot to enter the country?

      but there is another unwritten social contract, that I have made with my fellow Americans.

      you didn't make it with me. If I want this guy to come across the border to come work for me, it is none of your business if I do so.

      Borders are also created to protect those inside from those outside who would do harm.

      Do they have lasers on them or something?

      Of course, my support for open borders makes me a Freeper and a GOP shill.

    4. Tall fences; wide gates.

      And fuck union labor. Anyone that wants to come here to work should be able to come here to work (excluding criminals, people with communicable diseases, etc -- that's the point of the tall fences).

      The WASPs that inhabited the US were no less enthusiatic about my Irish Catholic great-grandparents entering this country than most people are about those Mexican Catholic people south of the border.

  3. Wow, an unskilled Mexican?? America is SOOOOOOOOO lacking in those.

  4. For years, he has been too terrified too apply for a visa, fearful that the application would cause him more trouble than good.

    The system worked.

  5. immigration, and ron paul are why lolbertarians are the joke 3rd party

  6. I say we just adopt Mexico's immigration policy and leave it at that.

  7. Those shirts is UnAmurrican.

    I agree with kinnath, Tall fence, wide gate. It'd be nice to make the guy operating the gate a little less surly, too.

  8. Hell, it's hard enough to keep a foreign spouse in the country even if they came here legally. Plenty of forms, biometrics, fees, deadlines etc. Want to get a lawyer to check everything for you because it is too fucking complicated and the consequences of a mistake can be dire? More fees. Also, don't plan on travelling anywhere for the year or so it takes them to process everything. If you leave the country during that time you have to start all over from scratch AND you have to explain why you "abandoned" your previous application.

    I imagine the whole process is a lot like an audit from the IRS. Similar burden of proof. Similar consequences for mistakes. Similar cold-hearted bureaucrats.

  9. Hit 'n' Run has gotten to be no different than Daily Kos.

    1. at least it's still better than fark.

  10. "CBS News points to an immigration lawyer who believes 3.4 million immigrants are in Agustin's boat."

    You think that a number of people totaling over 1% of the total US population is deserving of a hardship waiver?


  12. What's the problem, just live in Mexico. The govt. is weak and inefficient, health care and medicine are is good.

  13. A little late getting back, and no one will see it probably. But, I agree with liberal immigration policies. I just did not think the story necessarily supported that particular point. It was more an attempt at tearjerking. I wasn't crying.

  14. awfully Republican-like Barack Obama.

    What the hell? Republican-like? This is Reason, right, the libertarian mag? Reason...? Why is it reminding me of DU?

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