Guest Blog by Diana Wood Soerens
Ha! You have been duped. I am sorry to tell you if you clicked on the link to this blog because you are lonely immigration reform activist in search of lifelong companionship or you were hoping to get some good Christian dating advice, but you are not going to find it here. Everyone knows that headlines with “sex” in the title get clicked on more than anything, so I seduced you here under completely false pretenses.
But hold on! The frustration that follows being the victim of a bait-and-switch scam is a feeling that many undocumented immigrants know well. Sadly, undocumented immigrants are the victims of double-dealing and swindling in many different ways—often with devastating consequences.
Human smugglers—coyotes—are infamous for their deception. Journalist Terry Green Sterling, in her excellent book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone, documents how smugglers promise to bring desperate immigrants over the border for a set fee, only to inform them, once they have arrived in Phoenix, that their family will actually need to send much more money, kidnapping the desperate immigrants under threat of death unless they get their ransom.
In many cases, these situations turn into cases of human trafficking, when a trafficker—posing as someone eager to help—promises a desperate immigrant a fantastic job in the U.S. that will allow him or her to support their family and escape poverty—only to force them, once they have arrived, to work in inhumane, slave-like conditions or, in some cases, to be prostituted. Traffickers use the immigrants’ lack of legal status—and the shame that would be inherent in returning to the country of origin having been deceived so horrendously—as a tool to keep victims of human trafficking enslaved.
Another way immigrants are cheated is through is through something called “notario fraud.” Unauthorized “consultants”—who are neither attorneys nor non-profit organizations recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and thus are not lawfully able to provide immigration legal advice—take advantage of a false cognate: the fact that a notario in Latin America is basically an attorney, while to be a “notary public” in the United States requires no real training and certainly does not make someone an informed source for legal advice. Some of these “consultants” promise immigrants desperate for legal status that if they pay exorbitant fees, they will be able to acquire them a green card. In reality, most of these undocumented immigrants are ineligible for a green card under the law: they end up not only without legal status but also out of thousands of dollars—and, in the worst cases, the “consultant” files their ineligible case to the government, triggering the immigrants’ deportation.
Sometimes, deception can be entirely unintentional. Children who are brought to this county illegally as children grow up in the American school system being told that they can be whatever they want to be, and yet current law makes them ineligible to work or for any federal financial aid, making it very unlikely that most undocumented kids will ever be able to attend college. As they realize this—often kids are high-school-aged before they realize what legal status is and that they do not have it—some become disillusioned and drop out of school all together. Teachers do not want to create an entire generation of jaded, deceived teenagers, but I know that is precisely how many feel when they realize this reality of their schooling. As a high school teacher, it breaks my heart to see bright, ambitious students unable to go on to college or fully develop their potential—robbing both them of a fulfilling life and our society of all that they have to contribute— but in the absence of legislation like the DREAM Act, this is the sad reality.
As Christians, we must stop and ask ourselves: what is our role when we see so many misled, lost, and wounded people here in our communities? Do we scoff and tell them they should have known better, or do we mourn with those who mourn and take a Christ-like position of service, love, and justice? Only when we stand with those who are victims of fraud and deception in proclaiming truth can we reform a system that makes so many vulnerable.
Diana Soerens is a high school French and Spanish teacher in suburban Chicago and is the most beautiful woman in the world (at least from this editor’s perspective). She earned her Master’s Degree in French Literature from New York University and her Bachelor’s Degree from Wheaton College.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, contact Matthew Soerens at [email protected]. You need not be the blog editor’s spouse to submit a guest blog.