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U.S. blocks paths to legal immigration [Letter]

Ron Wirsing's recent letter to the editor looks nice distinguishing between legal and illegal immigration ("Americans support legal immigration, not illegal," Nov. 11). However, if he really cared about the truth and not just trying to justify conservative views, I would like to tell him that the real problem is that there is no avenue for legal immigration. Legal immigration exists only on paper. The laws that he claims exist do not work in reality.

Let me offer an example.

My whole family is in the United States. My youngest sister, who was only a half-year too old to qualify as a dependent and come to the U.S. three years ago, is in Armenia. She is an educated person holding two master's degrees. My mother petitioned for her immigration and the petition was approved, but due to backlogs, we have to wait six years for her to get here. She is unmarried and alone in Armenia. As a result, my mother travels to Armenia for six months and then my father goes there and stays for six months. My parents are not young, and it is a great risk and a challenge for them to travel at their age, but there is just no other way.

One avenue of legal immigration is a tourist visa. My sister applied for a tourist visa, but she was refused.

Another is a student visa. My sister got admitted to a master's programs at a U.S. university and applied for a student visa — and she was refused again. The only reason for her refusals for both tourist and student visas is that she has no ties in Armenia and she intends to immigrate.

Another legal immigration avenue is a business visa. With the current lack of jobs, it is clear that employers are not very willing to bring somebody from overseas. However, there are employers who want $30,000 to petition for my sister's H1B, but even if we pay them the whole amount right away in cash (which is how they want it) there is a good chance the consulate will still refuse my sister. So we may end up wasting money and still be at square one.

Another legal immigration avenue is a spousal or fiance visa — if my sister found a husband here in the U.S. But, of course, marriage is not something you can necessarily arrange overseas, and so far, there is no such possibility for a real marriage for her.

These options are the only legal paths that the United States, as a welcoming country, offers. And as you can see, none of them work. This leaves two possibilities — marry someone fake or cross the border illegally. Otherwise, she has to continue to live in Armenia with my mom and dad alternating and spending six months with her there.

As anyone can see, there is just no legal way of reuniting my family, and no one in my family is getting any welfare benefit or any form of handout in the U.S. We are all working and paying taxes. My sister, once in the country, will either go to school to get adjusted to the American education and labor market or get to work. She is not going to become a public charge on anyone. We are ready and able to sponsor her in anything but, alas, there is no legal way for her to get here.

I hope Mr. Wirsing cares about the truth and might read this letter as an eye-opener to the real problem that is forcing people to risk their lives and come to this country illegally. I hope he might see the fear in those people's eyes — fear of getting caught, fear of getting deported — and yet they are hard-working people cleaning our toilets and doing all the dirty jobs Americans won't ever do. They just came to this country to be able to work and support their families just like you do. They are people who exhausted all legal avenues and were forced to take the illegal way to survive and to help their families survive.

Is this really a welcoming country of legal immigrants? It must be proven by works and not words!

Naira Soghbatyan

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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