Chalk this one up to another instance of kicking the ladder out from the people coming up behind you. Mia Love, a Republican candidate for Congress in Utah, who is challenging Jim Matheson, a Blue Dog Democrat who has served in the House for over a decade, has frequently discussed her family’s immigration story. However, Love been less than forthcoming about answering questions surrounding how her family gained legal status.
“In an interview in early 2011, Love said her parents were forced to leave her older siblings in Haiti when they moved to the United States. Under an immigration law that she said was due to expire in 1976, they would have to return. But she was born in December 1975, 25 days before the law lapsed.
“My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family’s ticket to America,” she told the Deseret News last year.”
During the 1970s, thousands of Haitians fled their country to escape the Duvalier regime, which used paramilitary forces to imprison, torture and harass Haitian citizens. While many Haitian immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, they had to prove that they were refugees (they didn’t have a streamlined process like the Cubans did).
Mother Jones recently ran a piece explaining that there wasn’t an immigration law in place that would have helped grant Love’s parents citizenship by having a baby on US soil. But Forbes published a subsequent article citing a State Department provision that may have helped the Love family apply for immigrant visas. According to Stuart Anderson of Forbes:
“However, such a law did, in fact, exist, although it did not give citizenship to the parents of U.S.-born children but rather the ability to obtain legal residency, explains Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney with Lane Powell and author of a National Foundation for American Policy paper on birthright citizenship. (In general, an individual can apply for citizenship 5 years after becoming a legal resident.) Stock points out that the State Department’s Foreign Affairs manual describes the law that Love’s family may have used, which expired in 1977, a little more than a year after Mia Love’s birth on U.S. soil.
Here is what the manual states:
“9 FAM 42.53 N4 Former Western Hemisphere Priority Dates (CT:VISA-1545; 09-27-2010)
a. Until 1976, aliens born in independent countries of the Western Hemisphere and the Canal Zone were identified as “Western Hemisphere immigrants” upon establishment of status by obtaining a labor certification or being exempt there-from as the parent, spouse, or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) alien.
b. A native of the Western Hemisphere who established a priority date with a consular officer prior to January 1, 1977 and who was found to be entitled to an exemption from the labor certification requirement of INA 212(a)(5)(A) (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(5)(A)) as the parent, spouse, or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) alien will continue to be exempt from that requirement, and will retain the priority date for so long as the relationship upon which the exemption is based continues to exist.”
The quota system was different back then. Having a baby in the U.S. and registering for immigration as a Western Hemisphere immigrant before the deadline could allow adult parents during that time to be eligible for immigrant visas, notes Margaret Stock and the State Department Foreign Affairs manual. Stock cautions that it is not possible to know whether Mia Love’s parents used this provision of the law without access to the family’s immigration documents and paperwork. At this point, it does not look like Mia Love intends to make such documents available to the public (assuming they could be readily found).”
It seems that the generous policy of the State Department may have helped pave the way for the Love family and their U.S. born baby, who is now a candidate for Congress, but Love has taken a more conservative point of view about immigration matters. If Love’s parents were unauthorized for a period of time before her birth and they adjusted their status after she was born, it shouldn’t be surprising. Most immigrants want a better life for their children and would take advantage of such an opportunity if the alternative was to head back to a dangerous and dismal environment.
But what is disturbing is Love’s position on amnesty and providing relief for those who have been working in this country for years without documentation. She does not favor a pathway to remedy their immigration status. In a West Jordan town hall, Love talks about finding a way to allow for immigrants to “come in the right way” to reward “good behavior” but stops short of providing her audience any specifics. Could that incentive be having a U.S. born baby? Would Love want to see more U.S. born children separated from their parents if deportations continue as the current pace? In the first half of 2011, about 47,000 parents of U.S. born children were deported.
If Love clarified her family’s immigration story and explained how it is that her parents were able to “come in the right way,” perhaps if could inform her own policy positions to help those immigrants wanting to give their children similar opportunities.