Why our newspaper asked what you think should happen to the undocumented immigrants who survived the Goliad County wreck that killed 15

We all know those stories. The ones that call on reporters to ask the hard questions.

Many have spoken out about the question of the day in which we asked “What do you think should happen to the nine survivors of the Goliad wreck?”

(You can read about the story here, 15 undocumented immigrants were killed, 8 were injured in a wreck in Goliad County.)

Commenters have said that we are opening up a can of worms, that the question was in poor taste because we knew we were going to get racist comments, that the question is just asking for trouble and that we asked the question because we felt it would incite drama.

These responses are examples of why the question was necessary. It is our responsibility as journalists to ask these controversial questions so sensitive issues continue to be discussed.

This wasn’t just another immigration question. It was very specific. We asked this question in the wake of a recent tragedy because it was relevant and affected our community in the here and now.

The Society of Professional Journalist code of ethics states, “Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.”

We want to ensure that these people receive respect and are treated as human beings.

Many of the comments on this question suggested these individuals try to apply for a green card, or work visa or that they should have just come into the country legally.

There are five main ways a person can obtain permanent residency, or green card, for the United States according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

  • Green card through family
  • Green card through a job
  • Green card through refugee or asylee status
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
  • Other (includes person born to foreign diplomat in United States, Cuban native, victim of trafficking, etc. You can click here for a list of special circumstances.)

Anyone who has looked for a job in the past few months knows how hard it is to find one in this economy. The chances that someone from outside the country will be able to secure employment in order to obtain a green card through an employer are low.

For those who are fortunate enough to have family in the U.S., they can have a petitioner apply for them. The petitioner must prove that they can support their relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line. And the only people a petitioner can apply for are immediate relatives. This includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older.

If you can’t find employment and you don’t have a family member in the U.S. who can meet the criteria for being a petitioner, you can try to enter the Green Card Lottery. Each year, 50,000 immigrant visas (green cards) are made available through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Only electronic entries will be accepted, no paper entries. The registration period is only open for one month each year.

Among the list of things that makes someone ineligible for applying are: being a terrorist, subversives, members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war criminals and having used illegal means to enter the United States.

The winners are chosen at random. But not all country citizens are allowed to enter. Citizens from certain countries that have already sent more than 50,000 immigrants in last five years are ineligible.

For 2012, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply:
Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, south Korea, united kingdom (except northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

If you don’t make the cut for the lottery, there is an option for asylum and refugee status. Foreign nationals who are arriving or already in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status, can apply for asylum.

Asylum is a form of protection available to foreign nationals who have been persecuted or have fear of future persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, if they were to return to their home country or country of last habitual residence. Generally, foreign nationals must apply for asylum within one year since they last entered to the U.S.

One may be barred from applying for asylum if they do not apply within that time frame.

You must have been admitted into the country as a refugee or received asylum status before you can apply for a green card this way.

Another way to apply is to achieve T nonimmigrant status, also known as the T visa. This provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. The T visa allows victims to remain in the United States.

Of the many who voiced their opinion on this question, some said the survivors should be given a chance to stay in the country and obtain a work visa, given citizenship, sent back to their countries and be advised on how to come to the states legally.

Unfortunately, the reality is if they do not receive asylum or a T visa, they will have a very hard time applying for a green card if deported.

The Immigration and Nationality Act states a foreign national is inadmissible for three years after deportation if he or she had been in the US more than 180 days and less than one year. That person would be inadmissible for 10 years if he or she had been in the US for one year or more.

In the follow up story today, we quote the Rev. Stan DeBoe, of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Victoria.

“I think we need to be aware of the plight of the migrants, and recognize there are those who are coming here for economic opportunities and those who are coming through with crime, and drug smuggling,” he said. Those who died in the wreck were “not coming here to disrupt our society.”

We don’t know why these 23 people willingly took on this dangerous venture. We don’t know what is going to happen to the nine survivors. But we hope the questions we asked and the stories we told will help in answering their fate as well as the fate of many others who are going through the same process.

Our intention is to inform the public of these events and provide a platform through which informed citizens can come to conclusions about these serious issues that affect us all.

sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Path2USA

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