“Why Don’t You Just Apply for A Green Card?”

True Dat.

Do you know the process to getting your license?

I mean, the real process. Not just what you do- which is go to the DMV office, get hecka frustrated, stand in line, possibly take a driving test, take the least flattering picture of you in existence possible…we could go on for a while with what you get to do. But aside from those teps, do you know the actual process to getting your license? You don’t, do you? It’s okay, you don’t have to.

They give you a piece of paper certifying that you are going to get a card with that dreaded picture, and after a certain number of days you do. It’s like magic.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is one of the more benign and least complicated bureaucracies the United States government has but I can tell you of countless of frustrating and hellish experiences I’ve heard from the place which is pretty common for bureaucracies. Let’s examine really quickly what a bureaucracy is:


  1. A system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
  2. A state or organization governed or managed according to such a system.

Amongst the synonyms are “Red tape” and “bubledom”.

Immigration is now handled by ICE, the largest division within Homeland Security- a bureaucracy within a bureaucracy, or in layman’s terms a hot mess. I can’t begin to tell you how the immigration system works, but I don’t have to to tell you that it’s broken. People who are experts within the system can tell you of all the cracks and flaws and of how it’s not working. My former lawyer,  Lawyer Young Santa Claus or LYSC (as he will be referred to from this point on) was an expert and though he and I clashed heads from time to time the man knew his stuff, and even he could trip up over certain clauses, and admitted to the fact that he couldn’t always keep on top of things because so many things changed every day. LYSC was an expert and a very good one- one that the Department of Homeland Security (the plaintiff in my immigration case) once consulted on a certain clause, in front of me, before a hearing. Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen.

And that’s the thing- there is no way to just ‘Apply for a green card’. If there was, don’t you think more people would be trying that avenue? You think people would be choosing to live fearful lives where they are abused (due to lack of documentation, and fear of being found out), and marginalized over getting the paper work to stay and ask for basic things like a fair salary? There is no way to just apply for one- you have to meet some very specific guidelines. Married to a citizen. Have Asylum Status. Neither one of those are particularly easy to stumble on to, in case you didn’t know.

And that’s the thing with this debacle- it’d be great if it was as easy to apply for it- people think that girls like me, who were in the States forever had a way to stay, that there was some clause, because it’s so obvious and so logical. But there wasn’t- I didn’t have a citizen for a parent, I don’t have an American spouse and there is no magic clause- illogical as it may seem. People used to tell me all the time that there had to be something that could be done, because who lives in a place for 15 years and is unable to stay?

It was with that in mind that I was accompanied by one Mark Matthews to Senator Orrin Hatch’s office on July afternoon in 2009. After 3 years of immigration hearings every 4 months I was pretty worn out. I went in to Senator Hatch’s office expecting little. Mark, on the other hand thought that this was going to be the magic key- because he was a Senator! He would understand! He’d be able to see me, and see how good I was and he would get me to stay!

Like any good politician, Senator Hatch delegated our interview to Sandra Garn, who was his specialist in immigration matters. Mrs. Garn informed me of what I already knew: That I really wasn’t eligible for any form  relief , and that I would not ever be granted a visitor’s visa because I’d have have to show that my ties are stronger to ‘my country of origin’ than the U.S in order to have it granted. Mark mentioned how good of a person I was, and showed letters stating people’s kind opinions of me (for all of you who wrote one, I keep them in a folder and haven’t been able to read them again, since the time you sent them so many years back. They make me cry.). Mrs. Garn smiled and said that in cases like mine, there was no petition. She mentioned that people thought that being a good person meant you could stay, but there was ‘no such thing as a ¨good people clause¨’. It was just the way things were.

Additionally, the wait list for me to be claimed by my mother (which would be the soonest qualifying relative to be able to claim me)  is backlogged to the extreme- in 2009 they began processing paperwork for people who filed in 1991. My mother would not be able to claim me for a couple more years- so, technically, if I were to come back under that time line I’d be 50 by the time my feet touched American soil again. I went home and cried.

This is why, when you ask why they don’t apply for a Greencard, they have to shrug. Because they don’t want to be rude and tell you that a) you’re not the first one to ask that and b) it’s not like they haven’t tried to find a way- there just isn’t one.

There is no place to line up.There is no line that will have us. It is a myth. Because the immigration system is not organized to be that way- because no bureaucracy is that organized, especially one that’s practically a freaking matryoshka. They just tell you what papers to send, what form to fill out, how much money to send and not even bother to tell you that you didn’t qualify or refund that money. Bureaucracy at work, ladies and gentlemen.

So, a few tips:

  • Before suggesting that they apply for a green card, try and figure out how to apply for one. Then, if you discover any loop holes, tell them! It’ll help them more than to hear a question that they have heard countless times, and wondered about themselves.
  • Really, sit to consider- they have been thinking of ways to stay too. And if there was a logical one, if there was any semblance of clarity on the cluster crap that is the system, they would have found it and partaken of the goodness.
  • If a paid expert like LYSC cannot figure out a way for a girl like me to stay, then, unless you are some sort of person with power in the executive or judicial branch, I don’t think you have an easy solution either.
  • You could support the DREAM act.

And thus, the need for immigration reform.
Bring out your pitchforks questions.

This entry was brought to you by the word : Bureaucracy, which the writer of this post misspelled every single time excepting this last one.


7 thoughts on ““Why Don’t You Just Apply for A Green Card?”

  1. Let me tell you a case where there is a LEGAL way to remain in the United States:

    A friend of mine was brought to the United States when he was 10 or 11 years old. He went yo middle school, and then graduated from high school. He realized there was no way for him to go to college and find a job, besides he did not like the fact he was not legal in the USA. He decided to go to Mexico attend college there and work. He transferred to BYU Idaho and with a student visa came to the USA. He later graduated and now that was legal to work was hired by a company that sponsored him and became a permanent resident and now a US citizen.

    So, I think if there is no way for someone to remain in the USA, then it is up to the persona if they want to remain illegally or not.

    1. Checo, I’m glad to hear that it worked out in the end for your friend. I am curious as to how he entered- and how he returned- because the U.S. has an automatic 10 year bar if you over stay a tourist visa (or any kind of visa besides a U Visa) or enter illegally (i.e. without a visa). It’s unavoidable now.
      There is a pardon, but the granting of said pardon takes years sometimes, and is not a sure bet.
      When did this take place? Additionally, sponsorship is not necessarily an option and not everyone qualifies. It’s great to hear of triumphs, but let me tell you- as someone who was there for 15 years, with relatives who were residents/green card holders, and having spoken to a good number of lawyers and a senator’s immigration advisor, not even a student visa could help my case, or the case of countless others who are in similar positions.

      1. I guess in my friend’s case was that even though he entered illegally as a minor and was taken by his parents. When he turned 18 he decided to get out of the country and remain no longer in a illegal status. When he got his job, a company’s sponsorship is the only way for him to become a permanent resident since he was not married to a US citizen. He did not require a pardon since he never did enter the US illegally as an adult (or so I was told).

  2. I was brought in on a tourist visa as a child and over stayed. It’s actually a bigger penalty if you cross without any documentation whatsoever- they can slap some incredibly harsh charges. The bar applies regardless of age, if you overstay. It’d be interesting to find out when it happened for him, and his specific circumstances because the bar has been there for some time now. People who enter as children and over stay their visas or enter without any paperwork regardless of their age when entering, are penalized.

    1. According to my experience more than anything is up to the judge, and how god ICE prosecutors are. One of my brother-in-laws married a lady who entered the US illegally and last year she was granted the permanent residency without having to leave the country for 10 yrs.

  3. Checo, I’m glad to hear that your brother-in-law’s wife got to stay. Did she admit to the government that she entered without any type of documentation? If she did not enter with a visa that she overstayed on, from what I witnessed and lived through, you do have to leave, and residency is declined. There are people who are married to citizens, and I know quite a few, who faced deportation because of that clause. That’s been the case for the last 10 years at least- when did your brother-in-law marry? What country was she from? It’d be interesting to hear, because maybe she qualified for some type of refuge clause that excused the ten year bar. As it is, there are families where one of the spouses is a citizen but papers are never approved because there is the 10 year bar that the applicant did not leave the country.
    Additionally ICE no longer handles the cases themselves- the cases are prosecuted by Homeland Security, which is a different division; ICE is under the umbrella of Homeland Security, but they are different entities.
    And as nice as some of the judges are, they have laws and rules that they have to abide with- being part of the judicial branch doesn’t give them free range, no matter how sympathetic they may be- there are still rules and edicts they have to obey.
    But that’s the beauty of things- we all know exceptions to the rule, don’t we? But the efficiency of a system isn’t comprised of exceptions alone. It is a very broken system- there’s a lot of room for improvement.

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