He stood with a welcoming grin, slightly balding, and sprinkled gray hair. His face weathered and palms cracked, evidence of years spent underneath the Texas heat. With dried paint underneath his fingernails and the building’s color palette splattered over his white shirt, it was just another day for Victor.
In the pursuit of a better life and security for his family, Victor migrated to Amarillo, Texas, from Juarez, Mexico twelve years ago. With a spark in his eye, he whispers to his wife and kids, “seguridad y opportunidad,” security and opportunity. To Victor, his family’s voyage to Texas mimics that of the pilgrims to Plymouth Rock.
After arriving in the United States, Victor landed a position with Mancha Builders, a custom home construction company in the Texas Panhandle. He spent a few years with Mancha, establishing himself as a painter, before starting his own painting company.
Victor still works closely with Mancha, contributing on various projects. According to the founder of Mancha Builders, Perfecto Mancha, migrants like Victor are his company’s signature.
“They know that they must do the very best they can on any project to ensure that they have a chance to interview for the next project. Nothing is guaranteed,” Mancha said. “They take a little more pride in their work because 95 percent of the time being in the States is not taken for granted.”
Victor has a green card, and is in the process of obtaining legal citizenship. He speaks in broken English, and jokes that it is the most difficult part about his transition to the United States.
In order to become a citizen, he is required to take courses in American History and The United States Constitution, as well as learn English.
Victor lives a simple life, but many undocumented workers that he knows throughout the Panhandle continue to struggle for the American Dream.
“They live in fear of leaving home, being pulled over by law enforcement, and asked for proper identification,” Victor said. “They are often underpaid by their employers.”
According to Mancha, there are various building companies in Amarillo that pay their workers in cash to keep them off of tax records and avoid being audited by the IRS. Immigrants often resort to buying social security numbers on the street or from family members who have already obtained them.
“We do our thorough interview before we hire them and I try to obtain the proper documents,” Mancha said. “I’m gonna say we turn around anywhere from five to seven employees annually simply because we don’t have that quick turnover. A lot of these guys are legit and stick around.”
At thirty-four years of age, Mancha is already a veteran in home building. He believes that everybody deserves an opportunity to be in the United States. “It’s the ones that come for the taking that I don’t agree with,” Mancha said. “If you’re going to come here, do it the right way. There’s not a better feeling to me than seeing my people succeed.”
Victor shares the sentiment of Mancha, but urges the public to understand the struggles that immigrants face. “We don’t come here to rob, we don’t come here to fight or any of that, we just come here to work.”
Green cards can be granted to entrepreneurs who make an investment in a commercial business. According to Morales, this involves a minimum investment of $500,000. However, there are a number of other ways non-citizens can obtain a Green Card. For instance, a non-citizen can obtain the card by a family sponsor, meeting the requirements of “Refugee or Asylee status”, and other unique ways.
Once a non-citizen has a green card and fulfills the requirements of permanent residency, they have the ability to apply for citizenship. Requirements vary based on the type of Green Card.
In order to start the naturalization process, an applicant must complete the N-400 form. The form is commonly called the “Application for Naturalization.” The applicant must be 18 years of age at the time of filing and have had a green card for at least 5 years.
Other requirements include: the ability to speak English, knowledge of U.S civics and government, and many more. These can be found on the U.S. and Immigration Services website.
However, Morales said there are some problems with the immigration system. For example, Morales believes that the United States prefers an immigrant from England rather than El Salvador.
“We (U.S.) have a preference system, where we prefer people from Europe versus other parts of the world,” Morales said.
In an effort to find a solution Republican Senator John Cornyn introduced the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act or HUMANE Act on July 17, 2014.
The HUMANE Act reads that it intends to alter the rules for unaccompanied alien children by amending the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
The amendments are created to streamline the deportation process and include countries that are not contiguous to the U.S., as the new list incorporates Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and any other foreign country that the Secretary determines appropriate.
Once the alien child has been placed in custody the HUMANE Act says he or she has no later than seven days to make a claim for legal stay and during that time the child may not be placed in the care of a non-governmental sponsor.
After the claim has been made the presiding judge has no later than 72 hours to make a determination on whether or not the unaccompanied alien child is eligible to legally stay in the U.S.
On July 15, 2014 Cornyn and U.S. Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar made an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss their reasons for wanting to speed up the deportation process.
“They’ve figured out this gap in this 2008 law which allows children to basically be released to family members in the United States and be served with a notice to appear. It won’t surprise you that most of them don’t show back up,” Cornyn said. “So what Henry and I are trying to do is to fix that gap.”