Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

In Pursuit Of The American Dream

Imagine there’s a young man from Honduras named Jesus who has a wife and two small children. His family falls upon hard times after a hurricane wipes out their village, and they’re forced to relocate inland to live with extended family on a small plot of arable land.
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Imagine there’s a young man from Honduras named Jesus who has a wife and two small children. His family falls upon hard times after a hurricane wipes out their village, and they’re forced to relocate inland to live with extended family on a small plot of arable land.

Through a friend of a friend, Jesus meets a man who says he can find him a job in the United States working with horses. Now, he faces a difficult decision. Should he leave his family for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? He’ll miss the major milestones of his children’s lives—their first steps, first teeth, first day of school, to name just a few.

On the other hand, he’ll be able to make enough money to give his children better lives, better than they’d ever have if he remained in Honduras and scraped by in a community overcrowded with unemployed and with limited resources.

So, Jesus takes the chance, obtains a visa, kisses his children goodbye, and moves to the United States where he finds a job at a hunter/jumper barn in California. He works hard, improves his skills, makes a competitive salary, pays his taxes, and regularly sends money back to his family. His children now have enough to eat, clean clothes and vaccinations. His mother, ill with cancer, has the opportunity to be cured because Jesus sends her money for treatment.

This fictional story, based on real people’s lives, doesn’t have a happy ending—yet.

The failure of comprehensive immigration reform this year, and the subsequent problems associated with the government’s inaction, has left Jesus in a quandary like perhaps millions of others today (see p. 12 and 64). When his visa was up, he knew it was unlikely he’d be able to return to California if he went home to update his documents because the cap on visas, including renewals, is strictly limited now.

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So, for the good of his family, Jesus stays in the United States and becomes one of the estimated 10-12 million illegal immigrants. Currently, he works for another barn that will pay him under the table, he pays no taxes, therefore contributing nothing to society. He now takes more than he gives back to the country that’s affording his family a better way of life.

Polls regularly show that many Americans are resigned to legalizing illegal immigrants if the process includes fines, if government regulations impose stricter border enforcement in the future and if employers are penalized for knowingly employing illegal immigrants. Few Americans want blanket amnesty for all illegal immigrants, however.

In fact, some politicians are playing the fear factor and trying to get voters’ support through linking illegal immigration to terrorism, which is only adding to the growing problem of rejecting foreigners and not wanting to help them. The often-used, negative term “illegal alien” even adds to that belief. But these people don’t want to be illegal, they just want to get by.

For the millions of legal and illegal immigrants struggling to secure their futures—and the many others (including horsemen) who rely upon legal immigrant employees to operate their businesses—the immigration issue is more than a political game. Their livelihoods—and often lives—depend upon the passage of effective immigration reform, not just the posturing.

When legislation on immigration reform rolls around again, it’s important that horsemen make their voices heard. Historically, America has welcomed and embraced hard-working immigrants who sought the American Dream. And many of us today, who are fortunate enough to have horses in our lives, are in this position thanks to forebearers who made that dream come true.

Tricia Booker

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