Web tool lets users see if ancestors could immigrate to U.S. today

(CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

(CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform have long noted that immigrating to the United States today involves an entirely different legal system than that under which most people arrived here for nearly 200 years.

Now, there’s an online tool to help explain that.

Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization focusing on equality and justice, has a simple web page through which you can plug in the circumstances of your ancestor’s arrival in the United States and figure out, very generally, if she would be admitted under current laws.

Entry Denied guides users through some simple questions: in what time period did your ancestor enter? From what region? What skills and connections did he/she have in the U.S.?

It informed me that my grandfather who arrived in the 1910s from Eastern Europe, without higher education, with no family here and with limited finances would today find no direct path to immigrating to the U.S. He’d likely only be admitted through the diversity lottery.

Up to 55,000 visas a year are granted under that system, which is open only to people from certain countries with low rates of recent immigration, (among those excluded in 2014 are Brazil, Bangladesh, Canada, China, El Salvador and Haiti, for example).

In 2012, 14.8 million people applied, representing,  with their families, 19.7  million people taking a chance at getting a visa to move to the United States. Impoverished, war-tattered Sudan accounted for 66,000 entries. Bangladesh had 7.7 million entries. Even financially strong Germany had 58,000 entries for the lottery.

If my grandfather had been lucky enough to draw one of the visas, he’d then have had to show he met the employment criteria. I don’t know what skills he had when he arrived here, but he first worked in tobacco fields on the East Coast and then settled in Connecticut, working as a garbage man and snowplow operator.  None of those jobs would have qualified him to use the lottery visa.

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19 Responses to Web tool lets users see if ancestors could immigrate to U.S. today

  1. mom says:

    But your grandfather came here and learned English and made his way. Did he come and sign up for welfare?? Did he come for free medical care? Paid for by aleady-working Americans?? No. Did he insist Americans translate everything into HIS language? No. We have made so many things free to immigrants that they have become a liability.
    They shouldnt need a lawyer but they shouldnt be collecting welfare as soon as they arrive either!

  2. Jim says:

    We are all interested in justice and equality– Right??? I was born in Belgium in “46” the son of an American soldier who married mom over there after defending the port of Antwerp against buzz bombs. Dad preceded us. Mom and I came over on a ship with the brides and children of other US soldiers. My Belgian grandfather was in prison at the time for sexually abusing my mother and her sisters. Grandmother died in about ’52”. The Belgian authorities could not leave my 2 aunts in the care of their abusive father. The choice was living in foster care in a nearby city or coming to the US with the help of my parents. My parents did not have the financial resources to sponsor my aunts as required by US immigration policy. I talked with a priest in my faith area. His grandparents were also Belgian- but they came to the US by making their way illegally through Canada. Similarly we I have a friend whose wife came into the country illegally from Switzerland after fleeing communist Hungary in “56”. Justice and equality for all. Right?? Seems those who follow the law are punished and those who do not are rewarded.

  3. Another Mom says:

    “Mom,” to answer your question, no. Most immigrants of yesteryear didn’t have access to “welfare.” They often lived and worked in horrific, dangerous, disease-ridden conditions. I am grateful to be part of the Catholic faith, which vociferously calls us to stand up, be a voice, and improve the lives of oppressed people living this way.

    Because they formed communities of their own, English acquisition wasn’t immediate and could require a generation or two. The last I read, language acquisition for an adult fully immersed in the target language requires an average of 7 years.

    By the way, in Mexico–a major source of immigrants–there is already free medical care. Medical care isn’t free in the U.S., and undocumented workers rely on sliding scale health care services.

  4. Jim says:

    There is no such thing as “free medical care” not in Europe, not in Mexico, and not in Canada. It is NOT free! Go to Canada and see if you can figure out how the people are paying for it there! Then get in line to see a doctor for your cancer Rx and hope you don’t die before you begin treatment.

  5. JJ says:

    I beg to differ with you claim that their isn’t a universal health care coverage to Mexican citizens in MX. This entity is called IMSS and the national (MX)or universal health care coverage program is “Seguro Popular”.
    As long as you are a Mexican National and have all civil paper work in order – you’re accepted.
    But, don’t take my word for it.

    Oh, my fault!
    Yes. There is a slight catch with this MX. health insurance.
    Of course, there always is..
    And it’s – The poorer you are the lesser you’ll pay every six months.
    The cuota that my relatives pay on a six month basis, to thus remain in good standing with this health coverage was a stagering $125. pesos. for a family of 5. That adds up to total of $250. pesos a year.
    Which equates to $20. US. dlrs. a year.
    I think Mexico’s Health Care System is relatively free.
    Just trying to get things straight.
    God Bless you my brother.+.

  6. JJ says:

    This message is for (mom)..
    mom, I wonder what you might begin to do
    if you were a Mexican(immigrant) coming to America
    with the desire/Dream for a better life etc..
    How would you survive.
    And just try and figure in into the equation that you’re flat out broke, you don’t know the language and you are concidered an “illegal” etc….
    Oh, and lastly, that everywhere you go, the are pretty much closed to you.
    So, mom. What would you fair in this type of scenario?
    hm… what to do… what to do ??

    And please try not to divert from solely answering this question.
    Infact, sleep on it..


  7. Jim says:

    You guys just don’t get it! There may be universal health care coverage in Mexico, in Sweeden, in Canada. BUT IT IS NOT FREE! People pay for this stuff one way or another- mostly through their taxes. If the individual doesn’t pay someone else pays! People in the US who are teachers, federal employees and union members are used to the idea they have “free” health care-and with that they often expect “free” contraceptives. That is why so many do not understand the HHS mandate and how it forces SOMEONE to pay for abortion producing drugs. In MN we failed to keep abortion out of our health care exchange. Our US senator who has long advocated for single payer government funded health care led opposition in the Senate to the Respect Rights of Conscience Act. Go figure you guys! What is the cost and to whom?

  8. Jim says:

    Well JJ if you are that person it is you that have put yourself there. You know the rules- in fact you have probably paid someone to help you to violate the immigration laws of this country. Why should this person think he or she should be able to put themself ahead of people trying immigrate to this country legally? What makes them so entitled? Having said that the children of this person is a victim- in the country illegally by no choice of their own. Oh yeah JJ what would you say to the person who says, “Stop exporting “American” jobs? Do these people have a right to compete in the labor market alongside American workers. IBM in Rochester just sent its manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Right or wrong JJ? How many why support the “right to immigrate” with absolutely no conditions support NAFTA?

  9. JJ says:

    In the Politican Realm, I don’t go into.
    A sham is a sham no matter what way/angle
    you may view it.
    I think Jesus said it best when he said;
    <<"What is Ceasar's To Ceasar – and What is God's To God"<<
    God Bless my brother.

  10. Jim says:

    JJ There is a great dilemma in this. How to balance the common good with the rights of people to immigrate? That is a big question- it becomes a question of fairness and security of our country along with many other things. The recent bombing in Boston says there must be laws in order to secure the safety of all. The men who did this thing were immigrants, refugees. It does not mean that we fear all refugees but it means we must have the rule of law and the right, and even responsibility, to control our borders. How does one define fairness and for whom? We must have some control over our borders – and we have an obligation to welcome strangers. Borders are a thing of Caesar’s -but the Church has long taught us to honor civil authority- respect for the law. Without it there is chaos!

    But-one thing we must never do is to ignore what happens to our fellow humans. We must preserve human life and dignity. In Belgium during the NAZI occupation the first persons to be deported to death camps were foreigners- specifically foreign Jews. Most did not know or care what happend to them at the time.

    Martin Niemoller said it best:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    That is what happens when we ignore the fate of others completely.

    Yet there is the need for the rule of law- and to apply those laws consistanly or the rules mean nothing. Everyone and anyone can chose which law he will follow and under what circumstances. When that happens the common good is threatened and chaos exists.

  11. JJ says:

    I see what you mean, my brother +
    I agree with your prespectives. They are sincere, highly reasonable and forthcoming. I just hope and pray that t h e w o r l d s g o v er nm en ts are just as noble as you*
    Thank you for your valued insight.
    Your brother,

  12. gi wil says:

    Mom and all who are racist and only wish to see life from a selfish way. Jesus taught us love. “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Why denied your brothers and sister that which Jesus would have given you. I am an American and My parents are from the Dominican Republic. My Father worked two jobs so did my mother. They never took a dime from the government. No welfare, No food-stamps nothing. But those of you who are well fed, well educated, who are not of an immigrant family. see all immigrants the same way. As leaches. This world we live in it belongs to God. Not man. there is no boarders God did not make America he made the world for all of us to live in glory and to pay alms to him. We made those boarders. We killed to have what we have now. So Mom when you speak ill of others you speak ill of God. When mostly white Americans see me they first think I am from Mexico and always think I am an immigrant. I am a veteran I fought for your rights and mine. But because I am not a white Man I am seen as an immigrant how shameful are those who see life with hate. Your hate can only promote hate. Mom … is this what you believe Jesus want from us. Is this why you think he died on the cross. I once ask my priest why did he think God made us all different colors. He told me the same reason he made the flower all different colors. But I now believe God made us so different in speech and in color because if we cannot get over the fact that we are different and still love one another like he loved us Hate, discrimination, and racism will be our doom. You see mom your responses was a spark of hate and I can choose to hate you for it and all who are your race. But I am not because Jesus loved me for me.

  13. Jim says:

    I’m beginning to see how this works. People who disagree with coming here without a means of support are called “racist” and “selfish” If you suggest there might be work in Mexico for those who cannot qualify for work in the US in an honest effort to point out an alternative your posting is eliminated within 24 hrs.

  14. Jim Lackey says:

    Eliminated? Are you saying we deleted one of your comments?

  15. Jim says:

    Yes, I think more than one of my postings were eliminated unless something else went wrong. I pointed out the IBM of Rochester MN is moving much of of it’s mfg to Mexico. Our daughter works for IBM and fears for her job but she is very charitable saying that Mexican workers have the right to compete on the labor market for the right to work. I also pointed out the obivious fact that working in the US without proper documentation results in making both of the parties criminal under our law and that false documents make it even worse. I have seen this in my local community. I love Hispanic people. I especially like their work ethics and strong family values but I’m not going to lie about the consequences of coming here without proper documentation.
    There are opportunities to work for American companies in Mexico and elsewhere. Not all of that is “exploitation” as some like to charactorize it. I am aware of the awful conditions and tragedies which can and do happen but there is another consequence of international trade and what has been called a “flat world”. We see it in China and India where the income of some has risen several hundred percent. Are there problems? Sure there are! But look at Korea as an example of how international trade has raIsed a society out to the “coolie and water buffalo” level of poverty to a major industrialized society. I realize it is politically incorrect in many circles with some wanting to continue the “exploitation” and “don’t send my job abroad” image. If international corporations don’t bring jobs to the people who will? What will the people of Guadalajara (?) spelling if IBM doesn’t bring jobs there? God willing that Mexico can have it’s own IBM but it doesn’t!

    The reason people are coming over the borders is because we have the industrialization they don’t have. What does Haiti have for instance? They have hardly anything!

    I believe I had 2 postings with that theme removed.

  16. Jim Lackey says:

    We’ve restored the one comment of yours that we found was missing (April 25 at 12:41 p.m. above). I can’t say how that happened, only that as the editor of this blog I know it did not get deleted deliberately by me. Apologies for however it happened.

  17. JJ says:

    I can’t help but to feel some for you Jim. I think I understand your delema.
    And I think you make your point quite well but, you just don’t seem or refuse to identify with the aspect of, this is just “one world” of people (with human dignity) where all are trying to make ends meat. With this said, it’s true and I agree that countries should have their laws in place, intact, defined and that society at large should obey and respect them. I won’t make any argumentation there. But why is it that you don’t place a bit more “radar” on Corporate America?
    For it is a known fact that ‘Immigrants’ of the “WORLD” all they need and want is to “work”. To ‘pay’ for their family’s meals, bills, medical expences and their childrens little education they can muster in; in hopes that they are better off for it and then these immigrant parent/s happly die to meet their maker. (THE JUDGE OF ALL OF US).
    It just seems to me, that it is so easy for you, to pick on the disanfranchised and thus put all the blame on their noble actions
    when these people come and put one foot on, you’re so called SOIL, when all they are doing is taking action upon “universally inate human survival”. I mean, if you were in their position, which your not, – and you (Jim) should thank GOD for that – what would your survival skills demand you do?
    Ever hear the term – The World is an oyster? I bet Fortune 500 American CEO’S have. You can bet your bottom dollar on that one = )
    How about that? How envolved and how much have you done/invested to rally up a sort of demonstration towards corprate America, to stop making those high level desicions to leave the country, going abroad to make their millions despite “the country’s” recessive economy?. Have you done anything there Jim? I wonder..
    Have you voiced you’re opinions to that effect with anyone with such emotional umf’ as you clearly have on these immigrant/work related issues?
    Let’s be real and more importantly let’s come off our horse and see the entire picture and not just take snap-shot images of this diverse-mega-equation. Where so many clearly have a hand in. [$$$+$$$+$$$}
    – And again, All immigrants (of the “world”) just want to work.
    God Bless you Jim and Your lovely Daughter.
    She sounds like a fine lady in my book. – ..not that I have one. hehehe+


  18. JJ says:

    Mr. Gi Wil*
    Thank You My Brother
    for you fine example of Humanism.
    I feel very fortunate to have read what’s in Your Heart.
    Many Blessing to you and yours. In JESUS Name.+.AMEN

    I too are of immigrant parents of the year ’69
    and we too never took government money to pay for your meals.
    My parents have worked and are still working to this very day.
    And have all done well Praise Be To The Lord+

    (despite all Obstecles which I won’t bother to mention)
    Yes I have chosen to have no hate nor resentments in my Heart.


  19. JJ says:

    Oop’s. Forgot to post this informative reference up for you Jim. It’s regarding JOB/U$.VI$A.


    Please tell me what you think?


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