Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with the entire fifth grade class at Clark Elementary in near St. Louis County and discussing how the immigration process works. The boys and girls have been studying about Ellis Island and the history of early immigrants in America. I was able to provide historical context and to explain how immigration has become much more complicated.
We talked about non-immigrant visas and how people can come to the US on a temporary basis as visitors, workers or students. We discussed lawful permanent resident status and citizenship. We talked about passports and visas. Many of the children had passports and had used those passports on overseas trips. I spent a lot of time explaining to the boys and girls about how the federal government has a lot of rules regarding how people can come to the United States. I talked about how our office helps people to navigate the immigration system and to teach them about the regulations and laws that apply to their cases.
We spent a little time talking about deportation. I actually had a bit of difficulty explaining to the children how deportation works and what our firm’s role is in that process. I settled on telling them that everyone involved in the deportation process has a role and our job as advocates for our clients is to do everything possible to protect their rights and to make sure that every rule was followed. Not a bad way to articulate our job after all!
The highlight of the visit, of course, was the amazing questions that I received from the children. They were very engaged and asked the same types of questions that adults ask when they come to see us. Although we had plenty of “what if” questions, substantive questions abounded:
- If a dad gets a visa to work, can he bring his family with him?
- What happens if someone comes to the US on a visa and then dies?
- What happens if someone is here on a visa and breaks the law?
- How long does it take to become a citizen?
- What kind of questions are on the citizenship test?
- If we go to another country, what happens if we forget our passport?
- What does a visa look like?
Fantastic questions all around. Definitely the highlight of my week.