They do. More than any other country in fact.
According to the U.S. State Department, in 2007 the U.S. issued 53,442 immigrant visas to Mexican citizens.
Compare that to the entire European continent – over 30 countries – whose citizens were issued a combined total of 44,749 visas.
The United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined and more people are legally immigrating into the U.S. now than at any period in history.
The Pew Research Center estimates that approximately 300,000 to 500,000 people immigrate illegally into the U.S. each year bringing the total number of new immigrants annually to nearly 1 million.
Even more remarkable is that, while there have never been more people immigrating into the U.S., it has also never been harder to get in.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when all that was required for citizenship was a name and a pulse.
U.S. Immigration policy has had a long and murky history ranging from the genuinely compassionate to the arbitrary and absurd.
The notorious Immigration Act of 1917 banned – among many other undesirables – “idiots” and “epileptics” from admittance.
Current U.S. Immigration policy originated with The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which introduced a preference system emphasizing the skills of prospective immigrants along with any family relationships they may have with current U.S. citizens.
The easiest way now for someone to become an American is for him or her to be the spouse, parent or minor child of a current U.S. citizen. U.S. Immigration law does not place an annual cap for those who qualify and in general those who apply usually will receive a green card.
After 5 years (3 if you’re a spouse) a green card holder is eligible to become a citizen and would then need to file naturalization papers (a process which can take years). Finally, when everything has been stamped and approved, they must take and pass a language and civics test at which point they become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Best-case scenario, the absolute fastest a green-card-holder can become an American is 4 to 6 years.
Realistically, the only other option for an adult seeking to immigrate into the U.S. is to have both earned a college degree in a specialty occupation and to have received a job offer from a U.S. employer.
In order to process the labor certification the employer is required to file the proper paperwork, pay upwards of $10,000 in legal fees and wait six to 10 years for the green card to be issued.
Assuming neither the employer or the prospective immigrant would be willing to wait six to 10 years to start work, it is possible to apply for a temporary work visa – an H-1B – but even then, their chances are at best fifty-fifty.
The U.S. issues only 85,000 H-1B visas per year – far below the demand – and they consistently run out on the same day they become available.
For most people pursuing naturalization the wait can be up to 10 to 20 years or more.
While America still represents itself as a nation of immigrants, it must seem now to many that the welcome mat has been replaced with catch-22s and maddening bureaucracy.
So how can someone with no skills, no education, no family and no understanding of the English language immigrate legally into the United States?
Easy. They just need to go back in time 150 years to when my German ancestors with no skills, no education, no family and no understanding of the English language immigrated and were welcomed with open arms.
In those times, the privilege of citizenship was awarded by the simple fact that they had made it here – alive – and the American dream was for everyone and not just for those lucky enough to be born into it.