Tale of two immigrants: Who stays?
Who must go?
By Tyler Riggs
October 18, 2006 | At the surface, opinions on the
immigration issue in the United States can appear to
be as black and white as the divide between Democrats
and Republicans or cat lovers and dog lovers. A poll
of people on the street, asking them what they think
of immigrants from countries like Mexico living in America,
would likely return answers such as, "Send them back,"
or "Let them stay."
Opinion on the issue becomes a little grayer when
you recognize that even if an individual is in the United
States illegally, they are still an individual and don't
deserve to be labeled as part of a law-breaking mass
Take Jesus Flores for example: After moving to Logan
about 12 years ago from Chihuahua, Mexico, he started
working at two local restaurants at minimum wage. Flores,
along with his wife Yolanda and three children, participate
in community programs, are involved with local schools,
and say they have never broken any laws in the community.
Other than the law that says Jesus and Yolanda aren't
in the country legally, that is.
"We just work and make a living and try not to be
trouble for anyone," Flores said through a translator.
"I pay our bills here and send extra money to my brother
Flores is one of an unknown number of illegal immigrants
working in Cache Valley in industries such as warehouses,
farms and restaurants. He says that as long as he stays
out of trouble, he doesn't fear deportation. But with
inconsistent policies and enforcement of laws in America,
Manuel Carias thought he had nothing to worry about
too, and earlier this year he found himself in deep
trouble with the law.Carias was a hard-working man,
a leader in both his religious and social communities,
and a father of six children who attend Cache Valley
Carias sounds like any regular guy working to make
a living in Northern Utah, but he's not. In June, after
years of attorney snafus and botched paperwork, Carias
was ordered to leave the United States.
The immigration issue sure seems to become a little
unfair when someone a regular Joe can relate to gets
involved, can't it?
When Carias left his home country of Guatemala in
1992 to help his sick father and to give his family
a better life in America, he left a career as a doctor.
Relocating to Cache County, he got a job at Icon Health
and Fitness, where over the years he worked up the ladder
until he became safety coordinator.
But in March, The Herald Journal reported, Carias
had to face the spoils of a failed 10-year legal battle
to try and get legal residency. Having hired an attorney
who was later disbarred in the state of Utah, papers
were misfiled, Carias wasn't notified of court appointments,
and by the time the Hyrum man discovered that the legal
wheels weren't in full motion, it was too late for him.
He hired a new attorney this year and tried to make
a last-ditch effort to legally stay in America with
his wife and kids, but it was too late. The strong arm
of immigration law finally came down on Carias when
he was at the Salt Lake City immigration office to help
his mother take care of some business there. The Herald
Journal reported that Carias was pulled into an office
by a Department of Homeland Security agent and told
that he was not in the country legally and would have
to leave soon.
You wouldn't think a man who was breaking the law
and creating problems for American society would voluntarily
present himself at a government building, and then continue
making appointments in the coming weeks in hopes of
resolving the immigration issue, but Carias did. He
made every appointment scheduled for him, until the
day he was ordered to leave the United States. Carias
was able to get a stay on a deportation order that day
in June, and is still fighting a legal battle to remain
It's stories like this that make the immigration issue
tough to swallow.
Walls and fences will not keep immigrants out of this
country in the future, and any legislation approved
in the coming years probably won't end the discussion
that will likely only increase in the decades to come:
Immigration is an issue that's here to stay.
Carias and Flores, both men who worked hard to support
their families and be responsible members of an American
community, have been treated differently, and it's hard
to justify that. Carias, in the wrong place at the wrong
time, found himself on the wrong end of policy, while
Flores hopes to fly below the radar like many others
in this country.
When government officials in the future debate the
immigration issue, they must not look at immigrants
as a law-breaking group; rather, they must consider
them a large faction of individuals. No one argues that
this country was founded, and likely made great, by
individuals immigrating from all different backgrounds
and walks of life.
There is a place in this country for any man, woman,
or child, who is willing to work to make a living for
themselves, while at the same time abiding by the morays
and laws of our society. Who are we -- rather, who are
our elected officials -- to say who can and cannot have
an opportunity to succeed in the Land of Opportunity?
Just because Flores doesn't and Carias didn't have
a piece of paper saying they were legal Americans, doesn't
mean that they aren't Americans at heart. And in the
end, isn't that what really matters?