Immigration debate has an issue that is being ignored

Immigration debate has an issue that is being ignored

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 By Scott Sexton JOURNAL COLUMNIST

Perhaps because she is trying to become a permanent resident of this country the right way, Marisa Estelrich is getting the worst of both worlds.

A native of Argentina, Estelrich came to the United States in 1997 with her husband and two children with nonimmigrant visa status. They settled in Lewisville, enrolled the kids in school and got on with the business of living in a new country.

Estelrich received a bachelor’s degree from a teacher’s training college in Argentina and earned two more degrees (one from Wake Forest and another from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) since moving.

Estelrich and her family are assets to the community, precisely the sort of people you would want immigrating to the United States.

Yet they’re stuck in limbo, spending $30,000 of their hard-earned money over the past nine years trying to legally gain permanent residency. She’s been on the phone and written lots of letters simply trying to find out the status of their case.

"It’s frustrating," Estelrich said. "You get tired of waiting and not getting a reply. It seems like people who try to do things the right way are being punished."

Simple question

Estelrich was already worried about the slow pace of the application process – if it’s not dealt with in the next two years, her 19-year-old son will lose his place in line and faces losing his in-state tuition status at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two passages in a political mailing about illegal immigration that she received earlier this summer set her hair on fire and made her want to talk about her situation.

The first passage said that every dollar spent on illegal immigrants "is a dollar diverted away from Forsyth County’s legal residents."

It wasn’t so much that she agreed or disagreed with the premise that got Estelrich fired up. It was the fact that some of those tax dollars had come from her family’s purse and she can’t get a simple answer to a simple question.

What’s the status of our residency application? (more…)