One Immigrant’s Personal Story
Two years ago, a young woman named Yudi went to the U.S. consulate in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in pursuit of an impossible dream.
Knowing her chances of getting a U.S. company to sponsor her for a work visa were slim, Yudi told the receptionist that she wanted to go to the United States. She knew it would be hard, but if she could get a visitor’s visa, she reasoned, she could at least get over the border and look for a job. Then the receptionist began to list the documents needed for a visitor’s visa: A bank statement showing thousands of dollars in savings. Property deeds. Car titles. Five years of pay stubs from a good-paying job.
Yudi’s heart sank.
‘I realized it was impossible,’ she said. ‘I would never have those things.’
Like Yudi, millions of people around the world wish to enter the U.S. to legally work and live but simply have no hope of ever doing so, immigration experts say. U.S. visa laws have changed so radically in recent decades, let alone since the days of Ellis Island, that it is simply impossible for many hardworking people around the world to legally immigrate to the United States, they say.
Waiting lists for visas are often decades-long because of strict immigration limits. Employers are loathe to sponsor employees for residency, and diversity visa programs aimed at increasing the United States’ cultural mix are skewed against Latin America and other regions that already have many citizens living in the United States.
Advocates for immigration control say the system is doing its job and the U.S. cannot afford to take in more people.
‘America is already at an unsustainable level of hyperlegal immigration,’ said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, or ALIPAC. ‘Anybody that’s complaining about us not letting enough people in legally is full of it.’
23 year-old Yudi went back to her job at a potato-chip factory, but she couldn’t stop thinking about her meager salary and the opportunities in America. Her brother was even in Colorado now having crossed the border illegally several years before.
In March, she struck out alone for the United States.The trip took her six months. On the Guatemala-Mexico border, she says, she was robbed and gang-raped by four men. Near Mexico City, she saw a freight train slice off the leg of a fellow traveler after he fell onto the tracks. On the Arizona border, she hiked through the desert for three days with no food.
In Phoenix, she was held captive and raped by six smugglers several times a day for two weeks, until escaping on Sept. 18.
An immigrant-aid group, Respect Respeto, is now taking care of Yudi. She spoke to an Arizona paper with the condition that her last name shared.
Yudi says she knows that many Americans accuse her and other undocumented migrants of just not wanting to follow the rules.
‘All I can tell those people is that if we immigrate illegally, we’re not doing it for fun,’ she said as her voice cracked. ‘If they really want people to stop immigrating illegally, then give us an opportunity. Give us a chance.’