See me now, whirling around this city that never sleeps, bursting with that feeling you get only when ambition meets opportunity. Voices sing out: "Look at this good immigrant!"
But wait, cut the music, this is all a bit much. My journey was not fraught. There was no huge obstacle to overcome, no great fortress to penetrate. At seventeen, in that smooth "I-want-it-so-I'll-take-it" way of a middle-class white person, I simply moved here.
I got a job as an au pair with an Irish family in Rye, a small and comfortable New York town. I did not even need to apply for a visa, the mother of the family explained; as an Irish citizen, I was covered by the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for up to ninety days without having to obtain a visa. I could just stroll up to the American immigration agent at Dublin airport and show him my visa waiver.
As an Irish person, I enjoyed "preclearance" from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It's a nice feature, available to travelers from a small number of countries. Of course, it's calamitous if you need to claim asylum in America, because you can do so only on U.S. soil, and without the correct papers you won't get past preclearance in Ireland, but I never had to worry about that.
I also didn't worry about overstaying my ninety-day visa waiver. I simply overstayed, slipping contentedly into undocumented status. Most undocumented immigrants in America have done something similar. We arrive by plane, either with a visa, or a visa waiver, and then we just... stay. Some two-thirds of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in America were once legal, until their visas or waivers expired.
That's one reason I cringe at calls to spend billions on a border wall with Mexico when, according to a 2016 Department of Homeland Security report, the number of people managing to make it illegally through the southern border with Mexico dropped from 1.7 million in 2005 to 170,000 in 2015. Oh, and there's the fact that more Mexican people are leaving the United States to go back to Mexico than vice versa.
Trump's Travel Ban 3.0, rejecting people from Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Chad, is now the law of the land, having been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. This one is illogical too, given that relatively few immigrants from those countries have made it here in the first place. Illogical, that is, unless the logic you're...