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article imageOp-Ed: Illegal migration from India to USA - its pitfalls

By Armstrong Vaz     Dec 17, 2008 in Crime
Wilfred Lewis hails from the East Indian community of Mumbai but has been based in Manhattan-USA for the last five decades and is now a USA citizen. He and his family had followed the legal route of migration to the land of opportunities.
Legal immigration to USA can be through many channels by family unification, professional category, and so on. In each category of immigration laws it takes time, and has a waiting period because of the quota system.
Lewis says: "My family of six brothers and five sisters started to immigrate to USA in late 1960’s and it took more than three decades to legally immigrate for my entire family and their spouses.
But if there are a few Indians trickling in through the legal channels there are thousands who slip into USA through dubious means. What makes the Indians adopt the risky and high cost means to enter the USA is a debatable issue.
The uncertain long waiting period and the fear of failure of not clearing the stringent US immigration tests lure individuals in having a false sense of security outside the system, the parallel system of migration – illegal migration to the USA.
United States of America is home to 12 million undocumented workers from across the world and that includes Indians who have migrated to the land of opportunities illegally. Some pawn their family ornaments, some pawn their family land holdings while others invest their entire savings to pay for the agent’s fees ranging from Rs.2 to 5 lakhs to migrate to the USA.
Some successfully dodge the system while others are not so lucky. Millions have successfully dogged the immigration check-in procedures while others have stayed put in the US illegally even after the expiry of their visa period. But for a few others their bid to enter the US illegally has been a nightmare.
Roy de Souza was one of the unsuccessful one. He was turned back from the Miami airport along with 17 others after the immigration officer could not get in touch with the local agent of the fictitious shipping company that the group were part of.
And that spelt doom for the group, each of whom had paid their agent back home in India Rs 4 lakhs. All that Roy had saved as seamen went down the drain in his failed trip to the US.
And Roy is the not only example of Indian seamen turned away from the airport trying to enter USA, cases abound of similar nature, who lost money and have remained jobless and lead a life of misery.
Roy and his colleagues were attempting "jumped ship", a term which implies a seamen having a valid C 1D seamen visa for US, either not reporting from any of the US port where his ship is anchored or traveling from India to US armed with documents provided by his Indian agent, to prove that he is joining a ship at one of the ports in US.
For the Indians jumping ship the first job in the US is working at a gas station (petrol pump) owned by Indians or Bangladeshis or in a motel. Gas station workers are prepared and stay in cramped accommodations with about six to right people staying in tiny single bedroom apartments.
The owners employ illegal workers, as one does not have to give overtime wages along with the benefits.
There is the other side of the Indian seamen in the USA, that of contract marriages. In a bid to get a green card some of the Indians have entered in contract marriages with USA girls, some have been successful in the venture while for others it has been doomed.
Peter’s tale is a pathetic one, of an Indian working at a gas station in Houston. He befriended a USA girl, entered into a contract marriage with her and now has fathered a child.
He is in a host of problems, besides having to pay child alimony; his wife has since left her job and has been hooked to drugs. He is the sole bread earner.
Back home in Goa he had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakhs to migrate to USA and he has not been able to send a single pie back home after the mess he has been caught in and he is now a drunkard.
Migration legal, illegal, refugee, asylum, is a complex mechanism with first generation immigrants having problems in getting used to the system, but at the same time has push and pull factors.
The USA clearly has jobs to be filled and it is fellow Indians having US citizenship who are willing to exploit Indians and other nationals at wages below what they would pay Americans - thereby lies the pull factor.
Another pull factor is the perceived road to riches of fellow Indians who are based there and are having a slice of the American pie.
Some are forced by circumstances back home, which compel them to take the risky step. Call these lack of job opportunities
’’Illegal immigration is a very emotional and delicate topic and a proper understanding is required to know what makes them take this step. People have varied family backgrounds which force them to make drastic decisions some not conforming to the country’s laws," says Shane an illegal immigrant.
As an illegal immigrant, Shane has few rights and the fear of deportation troubles him and he is pawn in the hands of his exploiters. Knowing or unknowingly he perpetuates a system leading to tax evasion, black-mail, extortion, and physical abuse, in two countries.
"The USA is the most advanced democracy of the west in the field of law, science, technology, health science, sports, engineering and so on. It is a fascinating place to be, we have enjoyed and appreciated this system, " says Wilfred Lewis
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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