Sentinel Stories: Jose Aldana’s Journey to America
What makes my case the most interesting – I didn’t have any sponsorship, no relatives, no sponsor, no amnesty. I am here based solely on my merit. – Jose Aldana
In 1997 Jose Aldana came to the United States to pursue a degree at Ozarks University in Arkansas in his area of academic passion, chemistry. He loved chemistry so much that he also obtained his Ph.D. in nanotechnology from the University of Arkansas.
Needless to say, it took a great deal of focus and perseverance. Fortunately, Jose had an excellent example in his parents, who instilled in him the same work ethic they had. A middle class family by Guatemalan standards, they worked hard, took their children to church, and were never dependent on the government. Jose emulated his parents’ virtues, which helped him to transition when he came to the U.S.
Coming to the United States was not that difficult, as he was here on a student visa with a merit-based scholarship, working to obtain his degree. There was not an “iron wall” or any “anti-immigrant sentiment” that he experienced.
“As long as you work hard,” he said, “you can come here. What is difficult is staying here. That’s a little bit harder.” Jose does not see the immigration system as unfair, but it is certainly tough. Tough as it was, it was definitely worth it.
An Arduous Process, A Worthy Goal, A Rewarding Outcome
In Guatemala, Jose would not have had the opportunity to use his hard-earned degree; his country simply could not have afforded him the same career opportunities that the United States has. “You have to live in the first world to research,” he said.
That’s why Jose was willing to deal with the slow, bureaucratic immigration system. In America he could fulfill his goals and avail himself of the opportunities that simply did not exist in Guatemala.
After earning his Ph.D., Jose looked for a job. However, it was difficult for him to become employed without first having obtained permanent residency. Jose had to apply for a National Interest Waiver, or a Second Preference EB-2, a visa granted to a member of a profession holding an advanced degree. He was granted this National Interest Waiver based on his previous work in nanotechnology at the university and his good track record.
After getting his work visa and his job, Jose began his application process for permanent residency. Though he was always in the United States legally, his application for permanent residence was not immediately accepted – it is a long, cumbersome process.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviewed the evidence he produced of having been in the U.S. legally with a fine-tooth comb. He filed his Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status on August 26, 2011.
It was not until January 17, 2013 that the USCIS finally responded, and Jose was denied.
He then filed a motion to reopen and reconsider, and upon further inspection of the additional evidence that he had maintained legal status in the U.S. – specifically, that he was still here under legal student status – he was granted permanent residence.
Jose is still working to become a United States citizen. He has paid the hefty fees and filled out the piles of paperwork that are legally required of him in each step of the process.
A View of Immigration Reform Informed by Experience
Having been through this process, Jose is staunchly opposed to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill. He believes it puts cart before the horse and that it will give people the incentive to come here illegally, knowing that the process will be easier for them than if they went through the legal immigration system.
Similarly, he is concerned about employers who won’t want to bother going through the labor certification for employees who have come here legally when illegal immigrants will be granted amnesty and work authorization.
A Vital Part of the Immigration Discussion
Of course, having lived the experience of immigration, this is a topic of great importance to Jose. He wants to share his perspective with others. This is a vital part of the discussion, one that is all too often conspicuously missing from the conversation; Jose’s point of view or similar views are simply not demonstrated by the mainstream media.
Like many other conservatives, he has gotten involved with conservative organizations in his area including Heritage Action. He is also involved with his local tea party and Conservatives of Arkansas.
He also shares his views with friends and peers simply by having discussions with them. In doing so – both with other Hispanic immigrants in America and with people in Guatemala – he has found that there are many people in his native country who would love to come to the United States. But they would never dare to come here illegally because they respect the rule of law.
He wants all immigrants to be held to the same standards; anything less is unfair and unjust to those who have come here legally. Jose has done his best to follow America’s legal immigration process. It is unfair to him and others like him for illegal immigrants who did not have the same respect for the rule of law to receive legal status through amnesty.
If you have trouble taking that from policy analysts and wonks or from the media, take it from someone whose lived the life of a legal immigrant.