Facts and a plea on immigration


To the Editor:

The nonimmigrant community on Martha’s Vineyard appears to have many questions and misunderstandings about immigration and the challenges facing our local immigrant people.

Undocumented immigrants, persons who do not have proper papers, have lived in the U.S. an average of 12 years. They are usually rooted in our community, work hard, and are raising their children here.

The process of coming to, or remaining in, this country legally is often closed because of strict requirements, limited spaced in the system, and long waits. People often choose to come to join family members, and/or to escape violence or poverty. Leaving home, where a person is surrounded by extended family and a familiar culture and language, is painful, a decision not made lightly.

Every undocumented person has a unique legal situation. The process of becoming a lawful permanent resident (getting a green card) is complex, and often closed because the applicant does not meet certain criteria.

Immigrants pay state and local taxes.

Immigrant children are entitled to public school education and health insurance. Undocumented adults receive no government benefits.

Children born here to undocumented parents are American citizens.

At present, local police are committed to policing local and state laws only, not federal immigration laws. This enables undocumented persons to trust them and turn to them when they are victims of or witnesses to a crime. Cooperation with immigration authorities (ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would change this, deepen fear in the community, and be expensive.

Undocumented persons charged with crimes are referred to ICE, and usually deported.

The immigration system is cruel in many ways. The rules concerning deportation, for example the recent extending of the definition of criminality to include minor violations, keep changing, creating anxiety and stress in undocumented families.

When national leaders are abusive to immigrants, that attitude spreads across the country, giving permission for intolerance, discrimination, and worst of all, the abuse of children in our schools.

Undocumented immigrants cannot get a Social Security card. Without this, they cannot get a driver’s license in Massachusetts.

Persons who return to their home country, for example for a family emergency, are barred from returning.

President Trump’s plans to expand the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants have caused intense fear among many in our Island Brazilian community. As members of the nonimmigrant community, it is important that we understand the issues facing our neighbors and co-workers, and extend our compassion and concern. We need to make sure our children are kind. And we need to go to our town meetings in April and May and vote in favor of the warrant articles supporting current police practices.

We are a beautiful country with strong human values. Let us not be divided by intolerance, fear, and hate.

Cynthia Aguilar

West Tisbury