For reasons beyond your control, you happen to find yourself pressured to make a decision that will impact you and your family forever. If this is your case, you are probably living in a country where one or all of the following three scenarios are part of your reality.

You must leave your country or….

  • You risk dying as a casualty of its ongoing war.
  • You will be imprisoned or killed by those who persecute you because of your political or religious beliefs.
  • You will watch your family slowly starve to death from inescapable and unlivable poverty.

Whatever your situation from those described above, you will more than likely seek your refuge and fortune in that place known around the world as the beacon of freedom. This place you have heard about for most of your life is the United States of America.

Welcome, your journey as an immigrant candidate for entering into the USA has just begun. This, of course, is assuming that you can remain alive or free for the several decades that it will take you to get the legal green card necessary to bequest your permanent residency.

If you decide that you can’t wait, then you will probably consider entering the USA clandestinely. In either case, the following is a checklist of the Pros and Cons that are inherent in making such a decision.

Pros

  1. The United States is truly the land of opportunity, that is, of course, if you can live under the light of legal residency.
  2. Your hard work and effort will result to varying degrees of success whether in business or government.
  3. Your children can get a decent public education through high school and will probably be able to afford some level of higher learning.
  4. If you have the money to buy it, anything you want is available to you,
  5. Many people will reach out to you in kindness and charity.
  6. Once you become a citizen, you can actually select your government representatives.
  7. You can practice your religion of choice.
  8. You will find other people from your culture.
  9. Although there are exceptions, the legal and law enforcement systems are reliable.
  10. You have certain inalienable rights you never thought were possible.

These are the priceless values that make the United States of America the best choice for you. But, your greatest challenges as an immigrant will far surpass those you will meet trying to get here; they are life long obstacles that become part of your everyday existence. This is why you must also consider the following list of disadvantages, or cons.

Cons

  1. The loneliness associated with leaving your homeland, family, friends, culture, lifestyle, and language produces a bit of paranoia, isolation, and fear.
  2. The culture shock is very significant at first. The American Way is very different from anything you have ever experienced. The food, dress, language, attitude, openness and diversity of people make you feel completely lost and homesick. Take heart, this does go away over time.
  3. You have to accept that the sacrifice you are about to make in leaving your country will, more than likely, not pay off for a generation or more. In other words, you are doing this for your kids and their kids.
  4. The way you look, combined with your accent or the lack of language proficiency, will identify you as an immigrant. This alone will screen you out of professional and social opportunities.
  5. You will be discriminated against, which will limit your opportunities to succeed. This will diminish some with each subsequent generation.
  6. If you are an educated professional, the exile disrupted or took away your future.
  7. Depending on your nationality, your education may not be recognized. Although you attained the title of doctor or lawyer from a university in your homeland, you will not be allowed to practice such if your degree was obtained in the wrong country.
  8. Your past work experience is undervalued or outright dismissed.
  9. Your new career will be that of janitor, truck driver, fast food worker, baker, landscaper, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with any of these careers, they are necessary and valuable jobs. The point here is that, if you are a professional today in your country, your standard of living and working conditions will unquestionably be very different in the USA. You do have to remember, however, that working in these jobs beats the option of being dead.
  10. Your kids are assimilated into the new society much faster than you and they have to learn to be the cultural bridge between you and your new community.
  11. If you are a White Christian things will go much better for you than if you are a Muslim.
  12. If you have light skin, things will go much better for you than if you have dark skin.
  13. If you and your family are speaking your native tongue while standing in line to pay at the grocery store or at a retail cashier, someone may turn to you and say, “You are in America, damn it, speak American!”.
  14. If you are dark skinned with a scraggly beard or you wear something wrapped around your head, people will assume you are a terrorist and you will be closely watched.
  15. You cannot on-line shop because Goodwill and Salvation Army goods cannot be bought on line.

There are, of course, some other considerations depending on your place of origin.

If you are from Mexico,

  1. Just from looking at you, people will assume that you are a good fast order cook, a waiter, a house cleaner, construction worker or you have a lawn service.
  2. Police officers will stop you randomly and haul you in if they think you are illegal.
  3. More than likely, you will be offered a job to build a Boundary Wall on the USA’s southern border.

If you are from South or Central America,

  1. People will assume you area good housekeeper, a nanny for their children or a caretaker for adult parents.
  2. People may confuse you with being Mexican, which, in this case, the three points outlined for Mexicans will also apply to you.

If you are Asian,

  1. People will assume you do nails, have a Chinese food restaurant or a Laundromat.
  2. People may also assume you are good with computers.

Perhaps your situation is much more dire and you simply cannot afford to wait for legal entry. If this is the case, you will choose an illegal route to enter the United States and most of the aforementioned cons will apply to you, but very few of the pros will do you any good, for you are simply in a very tenuous situation. So, if you decide to enter illegally, these are the things you must consider.

If you are Illegal,

  1. If you are a victim of a crime, regardless of severity, you cannot report it, for to do so can get you and your family deported.
  2. An unscrupulous employer may steal your wages. Once again, you cannot report this crime for it may get you deported.
  3. You cannot get a loan of any kind, making it difficult to start and maintain a business, own a home or even have a car.
  4. You cannot get a passport
  5. You cannot get on an airplane.
  6. You cannot get a drivers license. This means you will probably drive illegally and increase your chances of getting deported should you get stopped.
  7. You can get your health services through hospital emergency rooms.
  8. You will probably pay taxes through a fake social security number, but you cannot claim them or apply for government assistance.
  9. Your children will be able to get a public education through high school. However, you will not be able to afford their higher education, for you will pay the highest college tuition rates available.
  10. Your children may not apply or register to higher learning institutions for fear of exposing your illegal situation and get you deported.
  11. You will always live in fear of being deported.

America is the land of opportunity, no question about it. My own situation is a testament to the greatness of the United States. I entered this country as an orphan and, fifty years later, I became mayor of Denver. I don’t know of anywhere in the world where a similar transition would happen.

But the road is not easy, the trials and obstacles of immigrating can shatter both body and soul. Most us make it with the help of an indomitable will and an indefatigable work ethic. History has proven that the overwhelming majority of us end up making valuable contributions to this great society.

We need to reform our immigration system and we should tackle this problem filled with great purpose, collaborative problem solving and with a large dose of humanity. We should stop assuming that the majority people who come here are criminals, rapist, terrorists or freeloaders. We are not. We are simply people who have sacrificed everything we had to just get a second chance to live free. We are also eager to serve our adopted country.


Also published on Medium.

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