I can sympathize with Ted Cruz and many others’ sentiments about amnesty as part of immigration reform along the lines of, “It’s not fair to those of us who’ve gone through the hell of the legal US immigration process!” My wife is Canadian, now a permanent resident (“green card”) in the US. She did almost all of the work to get here, but having supported her through it, I can say that it is extremely difficult–daunting, even, at times. It’s very expensive, confusing, and sometimes scary. The waiting periods are indefinitely long, the instructions are labyrinthine and contradictory, and there is very little truly helpful help available unless you can afford to shell out for an immigration lawyer. And we are highly educated, savvy with the internet, good at dealing with beaurocracy, and we had the money and time–several thousand dollars and a couple years.

The problem here is not that privileged people like my wife and me have a hard time with this process. It is that less  privileged people in terms of education, savvy, money, or time do not have a realistic shot at it, which amounts to a class barrier to immigration into the US; poor people need not apply.

It may be that Mr. Cruz and others do not consider this a problem. They may believe that it is better for the US and for the citizens of the US that we keep poor and uneducated people from immigrating here. That has a certain “American exceptionalist” appeal. “Bring us the cream of your crop!” Or maybe, “Keep the cream of your crop, and especially your poor, huddled masses.”

In my opinion, however, it is both wrong and short sighted to effectively bar poor people from US immigration. It’s wrong because poor people are the ones who need it the most. It’s short sighted because poor immigrants, in my experience, are the most motivated, hardest working people I’ve ever met, not to mention that entire US industries are depending on that cheap, motivated work.