Backlog holds up legal path into U.S.

Via The Charlotte Observer
07/15/2006

Millions forced to wait for thousands of visas



Members of the Morales family have been waiting almost two decades for green cards.


Family patriarch Miguel Morales Alcala gained legal permanent residence through a 1986 amnesty. He has since tried to get residency for his wife and six of his children.


But the wait became such an ordeal that he ended up paying a coyote $7,000 to smuggle his family into the U.S. from Mexico.


“It’s such a long time,” Morales, 66, said from his Charlotte home. “They told me I could bring my children, but we’re still waiting and wondering when we can get the papers.”


Often lost in the debate over illegal immigration is the massive list of applicants waiting to legally move to the United States.


The wait for a visa can take years, even decades, as several million people worldwide petition for limited spots.


Many immigration lawyers and advocates argue that immigration limits are too restrictive and it should be made easier for people to come here legally.


At the same time, advocates for more restrictive immigration rules acknowledge the process is cumbersome, but say limits benefit the country.


“There are way too many people than we can absorb,” said Ron Woodard, director of NC Listen, an immigration reform group. “Would-be immigrants need to understand that just because you’re a nice person willing to work hard doesn’t mean you can come to America.”

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