How Is This Legal? Many Immigrants Must Wait 20 Years Or More for Papers

“Why don’t they get in line?” That’s often the first question about unauthorized immigrants, and it sounds reasonable enough. If newcomers would just follow the law, critics often say, they’d be welcome in America.Except there isn’t a practical way for many foreign-born workers to legally join the U.S. labor force. “There is no line to get in,” said Jim Baron, CEO and co-owner of Blue Mesa Grill.Many years ago, he tried to help workers get legal papers, Baron said last week at a business event in Grapevine. But they had to return to Mexico, apply for visas and have Baron prove that no one else could do the job, even if it was just washing dishes. “How long does that take? Oh, seven years and about 20 grand,” he told the audience.That wasn’t going to happen. Instead, he and prospective workers developed their own version of "don’t ask, don’t tell" — relying on papers that looked good enough.“We live in a schizophrenic state where they lie and I lie,” Baron said during a panel discussion on the economic impact of immigrants in North Texas.It’s rare to hear such blunt talk from an employer, but it has the ring of truth. How else to explain the fact that 41.5% of immigrants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are unauthorized?That’s a big number, significantly higher than the 24.7% share for the nation as a whole. And it’s one indicator of the importance of foreign-born residents, especially in the booming D-FW economy.  Continue reading...

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