As a citizen of Austin, Texas, who works most of the year in New Mexico, I find myself in the midst of Mexicans, those of Mexican descent born here in the United States, the occasional Mexican foreign national who became a US citizen through the INS, and quite a few undocumented foreign nationals of Mexican descent as well.
In the medical profession, my co-workers are largely older and conservative. Among that particular demographic, there is a common perception that Mexican nationals can obtain work-visas quite easily through State Department channels, enabling them to come to the US legally, bringing their children with them should they so desire. It is assumed among the mainstream citizenry that undocumented workers end-run those normal channels in an effort to work “off the books”, avoiding federal income taxes, social security withholding, etc.
While my information is dated September 7th, 2011, I am guessing it is still accurate http://www.mexicolawblog.com/2011/09/07/u-s-immigration-options-for-mexican-nationals/.
The reality for Mexican nationals is very different from the perceptions of middle Americans. The options available to campesinos, the “peasantry” of Mexico, and the vast majority of Mexican nationals are so far beyond reach as to make legal entry into the US in order to work as farm labor, beef processing plant labor, hospitality service sector labor, lawn care, brick-, stone-, and concrete-masonry, virtually impossible.
To summarize the available options… These are non-immigrant, temporary entry-visas, that do not allow the holder any citizenship-track options:
A B-1 Business Visitor is essentially entitled to visit the US as a tourist; the stay is limited to 180 days, during which time the holder is NOT permitted to work in the US.
An E-2 Treaty Investor is permitted to visit the US in order to develop business interests here, and “requires substantial and committed cash investment in a U.S. business… Mexican employees of the U.S. business may also obtain E-2 Visas if they are executives, supervisors or skilled workers.”
An E-1 Treaty Trader must be engaged in “continuous and substantial trade in goods, services or technology between Mexico and the U.S.”
An L-1 Intracompany Transferee must come from the Mexican office of a multi-national corporation, and “requires employment outside the U.S. for 1 full year during the last 3 years with a Mexican company that has a U.S. parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch office.”
An H1-B Specialty Occupation visa “requires a U.S. job offer in a specialty occupation, meaning a job that requires a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in a specific field, such as engineering, accounting, etc. and the applicant must possess such degree.” It is limited to 3-years duration, with an option for one extension.
The TN NAFTA Visa “requires a U.S. job offer in one of the 63 occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA; applicant must have the university degree or other credentials required by the NAFTA for the listed occupation.” It is also good for up to 3-years, with an option for one extension.
The last of the temporary visa options is the F-1 Student Visa, which requires enrollment in a full-time academic program, and allows “on-campus work only (limited to 20 hours per week) that does not displace U.S. residents, which should be part of a fellowship, scholarship or postdoctoral research appointment.”
For Mexican nationals who wish to emigrate to the US permanently, in order to pursue a track towards becoming a US citizen, there are only two options available:
The EB-5 visa allows the holder a “2-year period of Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status, after which you may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.” However, the EB-5 “requires an investment of at least $1,000,000 (or $500,000 in certain rural or high unemployment areas) in a U.S. business creating at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers; investor MUST actively manage the U.S. business on a daily basis…”, unless the business is located in an approved Regional Center, allowing the investor the option of not actively managing it.
The other option is the O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa, which “requires proof of extraordinary ability in business, science, education, athletics or the arts, as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim; the applicant must prove intent to continue working in the area of extraordinary ability.” So much for the option of entering the country illegally for the millions of poor campesinos who earn less than ten-dollars USD per week, and grew up without the benefit of any education at all, much less a college degree.
The only option available is illegal entry, in order to take one of those jobs being offered to unskilled labor.
What do you think?
It's time for a new conversation about immigration in America, and it starts with us.