Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 20, 2010

An Immigrant Weighs in on Arizona’s Controversial Immigration Legislation

There is a lot of buzz in the media right now about the controversial immigration reform that has gone on in Arizona. The state government implemented legislation allowing local police officers to request proof of legal immigration papers for anyone they think might be in the country illegally. While some argue that this law is just because illegal immigration is, well, illegal, critics have raised concern over the potential for racial profiling.

While this is probably not the best thought out legislation on immigration reform, I will say that I do not support illegal immigration. As someone who has spent the last 9 months trying to go the legal route, I would think it only fair for others to be doing the same thing. What I will say, however, is that if we want people to immigrate legally there has got to be a better way.

Julie and I have faced nothing but complications in our attempt to get me into the U.S. Most of you know the story. We set out to move to Longview based on the expectation that we would be able to get a religious work visa in about 6-8 weeks. This was the timeline put out by USCIS. But three months in we got the dreaded RFE (request for evidence.)

One of the requests was for the church membership list to be re-sent because it had been photocopied back to back and they wanted it on two separate sheets of paper. They also wanted a color copy of my passport instead of a black and white one. These were just two of about 30 requests for evidence. We consulted a lawyer who showed us some statistics pointing out how 80% of the R-1 visas were denied last year. He estimated that it would be drawn out for at least 6 more months, with a very slim chance of getting it approved.

Take two: We submitted a spousal visa through Julie because she is an American citizen. We were told they were processing temporary spousal visas in about 4 months. Talked with John and the leadership of the church and decided that we all felt this was a worth waiting out.

But then somebody stuck a bomb in their underwear and the DHS needed to regroup, so our application sat in a mail room in California for a month before we were entered into the system. They also forgot to send us our receipt leaving us in the dark until the middle of February.

Finally the approval came! It actually came earlier then expected! Home free right? Unfortunately not. Three weeks before our approval the Department of State canceled the distribution of temporary spousal visas if they were approved at the same time as the more involved green card petition. This meant that I could not move down until I had my green card processed at the National Visa Center.

Getting through the NVC requires about 8 different steps of correspondence. I literally have an intricate flowchart on my computer of how to get through the NVC properly. Keep in mind that this process starts after you have spent 4-5 months getting through the Department of Homeland Security.

With all these steps it is almost inevitable that delays will happen. Someone forgot to send our bill for 3 weeks, which we needed to get the ball rolling. Then the person looking over our documents asked us to send in an employment letter for Julie even though her dad is co-sponsoring me. Fearing that writing back to the NVC and saying “sorry but I think you’re wrong,” wouldn’t work out, Julie quickly went and got a job in the US. This mistake has added an extra three weeks and counting.

But we’re almost there – I hope. We’re at that final step in the chart. Barring any requests for evidence, I should be granted my interview date within a few weeks. I will then go and see a “US authorized” doctor whom I will pay $330 to deem me healthy. Then we will fly out to Montreal for my final interview (because the new rules don’t allow me to be interviewed in Vancouver), get a secret envelope that I’ll take to the border, and finally get the coveted stamp on my passport saying I am a legal resident!

I confess I am a bit of a whiner. Considering what others are going through this year, I really can’t complain. I am not separated from my wife, we don’t have kids who are being held in limbo, we have two amazing church families that are supporting us every step of the way. As this is a blog on faith and culture, I should probably emphasize that this has been a profound test of faith and patience and I can see God’s hand in the midst of this difficult year.

I guess my point is, if we want people to immigrate to the US legally, maybe the legislation should be aimed at streamlining the legal process. (Though please don’t change the process for a couple more months on me, cause we’re almost at the end:) ) I know immigration is a time-consuming thing, and considering the volume of immigrants to the US I have been impressed, for the most part, at how quickly they are processing things. I recognize that over a million people immigrate legally to the US every year and I get it that the NVC receives 120,000 pieces of mail every week – this stuff takes time.

What concerns me the the number of complicated steps the government puts into this process. There seem to be way too many places for things to get held up, misplaced, misunderstood and so on. The result is that prospective immigrants like myself feel compelled to blog in the middle of the night because they can’t sleep as they worry about what the next set-back is going to be. When I am on the phone with the NVC, Julie swears she can see gray hairs sprouting spontaneously. So for those of you who may have thought I looked a bit young to be a pastor: by the time I get to Longview about 50% of my hair will be gray 🙂

When Julie immigrated to Canada it took about 7 months, but we sent one package to one address and paid one fee and that was that. The Canadian government also allowed Julie to get a visitor visa for that year simply by going to the border and saying “I’d like to move to your beautiful country please.” In our experience a streamlined process made things so much more manageable. Maybe this kind of streamlining is part of the solution. ??


  1. Good thoughts Phil.

    The application process sounds terrible. They make legit people go through the ringer and yet allow literally millions of illegals live inside of the US borders.

    Hopefully they revamp the system so people who will be valuable U.S. citizens are allowed to come and the criminals are kept out. I know locally in Lynden a lot of agriculture depends on Mexican immigrants. Even though some may be illegal, they present the correct documents which my be stolen or forged.

    If this goes on any longer, I may be able to hook you up with some papers… but you may have to change your name to Philipe Ruiz.

  2. Thanks Matt,

    Yes, it is true that illegal immigrants are intricately intertwined in our economy. I’m interested to see what some of the economic impacts will be from Arizona’s legislation.

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how hard the legal process would be if you did not know English very well. Half the time I’m confused and English is my first language and I have a lawyer. This is another reason why streamlining needs to take place.

  3. It’s interesting that when people say “illegal immigrants” we all assume they are from Mexico. I’ve traveled through both US borders and the Canada/US border is certainly less extreme in its physical security. After all Zero Ave. (the road that runs along the border near where we live) has only a small ditch separating it from the US. I’m sure there are many illegal Canadians in the United states but they “walk among us undetected” as the movie “Canadian Bacon” humorously puts it.

    In becoming an immigrant myself and going through the process with Phil, I have had to confront my previous views of immigration and immigrants (both legal and illegal). A birth certificate is only a slip of paper, not merited or deserved, a chance.

  4. One of the things I really like about you Phil is your sense of humor. Even in the face of great diappointments, you are able to see some humor. It helps sustain us all. That said, I identify with you on the difficulty waiting, the disappointments of mistakes and timing. Our church family awaits your leadership, strengths, energy, humor, and abilities to help us grow and serve in this great county. There are so many ways we need to move forward and with just one pastor, we just can’t do it. Hang in there. Actually, I hope you’ve started packing. Once the approval is given, there will be much ministry here needing your energy! Longview or BUST.

  5. Hey, I can hardly wait for some golf weather. I hope it arrives before you get down here.

  6. Hi Everett and Dorothy,

    Welcome to the Blog! Yes, we’re definitely due for some better weather. We’ll have to get out for a round of golf sometime soon!

  7. Hi Phil and Julie,

    I was sent the link to this blog site through my sister, Margie Botten, who is a lifelong member of Longview Community Church. Thank you so much for your sharing the way you’ve been doing immigration the legal way. It frustrates me that my tax dollars are paying for such a complicated and incompetently run process. I can only imagine your frustration.

    I am sure that this has been an great opportunity for much spiritual growth and that the Lord has great plans for you in Longview. I look forward to meeting you and Julie in person. I’ll be leading the music at VBS in Longview at the end of the month, as I have for the past 20 years. Though my husband and I live in Seaside, OR, I love the church I grew up in and as part of the Noteboom clan, I just can’t stay away! I’m afraid that Lisa and I will be doing VBS together until we die.

  8. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your response! Looking forward to meeting you. I can see how Longview Church is a hard place to stay away from. We’ve fallen in love with the place as well, and can hardly wait to be there permanently!

  9. My response may be a bit on the late side, but here it is, from a political/cultural perspective:

    I think the differences in experience between immigrating to the US and immigrating to Canada show, once again, very different cultural values. We’ve all heard time and time again, that the US is a melting pot, while Canada is a mosaic – different cultures are celebrated in Canada, while in the US, assimilation is encouraged.

    Thus the difficulties you’ve been experiencing with immigration are built in for a reason – they act as a deterrent for those who do not wish to do things ‘the American way’, making sure that only those completely and totally committed to America will succeed.

    Unfortunately, as you allude to, this is what contributes to a significant number of illegal immigrants in the US. It seems to me that the solution to the illegal issue is to open up the immigration process, and to welcome other cultures with open arms.

    Now this isn’t to say that Canada doesn’t have problems with its own system. Despite our commitment to multiculturalism, we discriminate against those who move here and immigrate successfully when we are unable to integrate their capabilities into our society. Why should a doctor from India be driving a taxi, and an accountant from the Philippines spend his working life cleaning hotels? It seems to me that if we truly are as welcoming as we claim, then we’ve got some work to do…

  10. Hey Pete,

    If nobody else – i’m still following the various posts! Definitely agree with your point about how those who go through American immigration really have to be committed to the process. I’m sure there is some purpose behind the complicated process. Part of the issue is that so many people want to immigrate to the US so one of the ways they may ease the flow of immigrants is by making them really have to want it.

    Part of it, though, seems to be an accumulation of rules and laws over the years. The other thing is that our experience has been very unique. We got caught in the middle of a lot of rule changes this year and we started by trying to get a very difficult religious work visa. Had we known how controversial the r-1 visas are we probably would have just started with my green card process right off the bat.

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