Illegal Immigration: Not Just a Modern or American Phenomenon

Harlan York, the #1 Immigration Attorney.   Your best choice for an Immigration Attorney if you live in NYC (Manhattan, Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island).

In the United States there has always been much controversy about “illegal immigration.”  I have never been as offended by the language as some commentators and advocates.  To me, it is just a term that reflects a part of American history.

Hardly a new topic, the plight of the undocumented foreign national has been perpetually in the public eye.

In our nation’s past, the original British colonists shunned the Germans.  Then the Asians in the 19th century, punished by the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act.  Later prejudice followed against Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century.

In the last six decades, of course, Hispanics have been in the eye of the storm of illegal immigration. This syndrome is not a 21st century trend.  The infamous Operation Wetback brought over a million apprehensions of Latinos in 1954.

Thus, we can see easily that illegal immigration is a constant issue throughout the evolution of America. 

Our government often has acted in a reactionary fashion to this issue, rather than dealing practically with it, with rare exceptions such as President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

IRCA resulted in about 3 million green cards in lieu of illegal immigration.

Indeed, illegal immigration is hardly a phenomenon indigenous to the United States.

Look at the recent terrible problems in Syria:

An estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, taking refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 2.5 million have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Or how about Greece?  Today’s news noted that “Since February, the Greek authorities have taken another step towards harsher treatment of irregular immigrants by announcing a policy of indefinite detention until repatriation.”

In other parts of the world, so-called illegal immigration goes on, too. The Nicaraguans cross the border into Costa Rica, looking for work.

Perhaps the most notable case of an individual being deported in the most unusual circumstances?  Maria Amelie, a Russian immigrant won an award as “Norwegian of the Year” not long ago.   She wrote about human rights of the undocumented in Norway.  Her other award?  Deportation back to Russia.  In less than three months, Norway allowed her back, but the point is still the same.

Illegal Immigration is not a uniquely American trend.  Nor is it anything new.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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