Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue in America. It's currently getting a lot of time in the spotlight following President Trump's controversial executive orders.
Trump, who has stated his intention to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, appears to be taking a stricter stance on immigration law enforcement, while adding new, tougher provisions.
So, how do legal immigrants feel about illegal immigration and U.S. border laws? Independent Journal Review asked 20 immigrants who've come to the United States in the last 1-50 years what they think about the U.S.'s border laws and the issue of illegal immigration.
1. Miriam Amselem, a 51-year-old personal trainer, emigrated from Israel in 1974:
"My parents immigrated to the U.S. with three kids in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War in Israel. It took a one-year process to get visas and green cards. My parents were naturalized exactly five years later and with pride!
My brother and I were under 18 so we were automatically naturalized, thanks to our parents. My entire family believes in secure and tight borders (most likely because of living in Israel and knowing the necessity). Additionally, we support legal immigration only."
2. Waqqas Khan, a 35-year-old physician, emigrated from Pakistan in 2010:
"Both me and my wife moved to the U.S. almost 10 years ago. We worked extremely hard and had to go through tremendous hardships to change our visa status from working visa to permanent residentship. We served this country with our skills and compassion and owe a lot to America.
I just had the great honor and privilege of becoming a U.S. citizen on February 10, 2017. Being a legal immigrant to the U.S., I believe that immigration laws are of extreme importance for the sovereignty of a nation.
I find elements defending and promoting illegal immigration utterly outrageous, offensive and racist toward hardworking, legal immigrants like myself and others of various colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds."
3. Jojo Reyes, a 57-year-old corporate pilot, emigrated from the Philippines in 1973:
"I came here legally as a student in 1973, as my father wanted us to have a better life, and to escape the dictatorship rule of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
I'm a corporate pilot and have traveled to countries that bring back memories of corruption, poverty, briberies, and crime. The last one being Nigeria. There are places there that you wouldn't want to get caught walking alone due to kidnappings and terrorist threats from groups like Boko Haram.
We should consider ourselves lucky to live in such a great country, far from the problems of these other third world countries, whose open borders continue to plague their communities with illegal and criminal immigrants."
4. Nicki Kalantari, a 30-year-old chemical engineer, emigrated from Iran in 2000:
"My family and I got our green card back in 2000 after almost waiting for 10-13 years due to Iran not having a diplomatic relationship with the U.S.
We spent thousands of dollars paying for attorneys to follow up our case and our financial sponsors — who were my uncle and his wife at the time — had to put down an astronomical amount of money and collateral on file for us in the U.S., despite the fact that my dad was a very successful architect in Iran and we were financially very stable.
I do believe there should be laws put in place to prevent not only illegal immigration, but also careful vetting for lawful immigration just like what we had. We worked so hard to earn our U.S. citizenship, and that's why we honor it very much. Why shouldn't everybody else?"
5. Hamody Jasim, a 31-year-old terrorism expert and former asset for U.S. intelligence, emigrated from Iraq in 2010:
"In Iraq, we had Al-Qaeda coming into our country because our border wasn't secure at all. If your borders aren't secure, it makes it a lot easier for your enemy to come in and take advantage of that. In Iraq, we are bordered by Syria and other nations that create so much chaos.
Mexico is already not difficult to come through. Everyone wants to come to the U.S: we need to make sure they are able to do that, but be safe at the same time. We are the number-one target in the world."
6. Aly Taylor, a 29-year-old corporate sales manager, emigrated from Mexico in 1998:
"The U.S. has more illegal immigrants than any other country in the world. There is a better way to handle migration and encourage respect for the laws of the land and maintain great diversity.
The U.S. should embrace a talent-based migration system where we find ways to encourage and enable legal migration to those who can bring high talent and skills.
At the same time, the U.S. should tighten up borders as every other nation has in order to protect its citizens and keep illegal immigrants out."
7. Brad Tonkin, a 32-year-old counterterrorism SME and intelligence and security consultant, emigrated from Australia in 2012:
"Firstly, after living in Mexico for the better part of a year, I absolutely understand — nor blame them — for wanting to improve their families' lives by any means necessary. But the big picture is, that it is still wrong.
As someone who came here legally, I was put in a position of having to wait two years from paperwork being submitted to legal status change because of immigration backlog due to illegals being processed.
But even if this wasn't the case — with the legitimate and serious threats from different factions around the world — having open borders is a sure way to invite these threats into our backyard and it increases the risk of attack on home soil considerably. The attacks in France, Germany, and Belgium reflect the risks of undocumented immigration."
8. Vika Mukha, a 24-year-old legal assistant, emigrated from Belarus in 1992:
"First off, for the sake of order in a country, a nation and its tax paying citizens can only host and welcome so many people at a time.
I immigrated on March 25, 1992. I was eight months old when we moved here. My aunt and uncle just moved to the States last May, nine years after they applied to be reunited with their parents in America. So, it's unfortunate that people who do it legally have to wait even longer and get less support upon arrival than the illegals."
9. Michael Scheele, a 45-year-old technology industry marketer, emigrated from Japan in 1972:
"I led the class of newly-naturalized citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance after we all took the Oath of Allegiance in 1978. The United States is the only nation founded on a good idea — that individuals are free and the government is limited.
Anyone willing to adopt that ideal can become an American. To protect that ideal requires limitations on entry. People willing to respect their new home is a must."
10. Paulina Chang, a 52-year-old former pediatrician, emigrated from China in 1982:
"Borders are a good thing. Immigrants should be admitted only on the basis of how they will benefit the U.S. Those who immigrate need to learn English.
It upsets me when people come and take advantage of the U.S. and want America to be accommodating to their cultures."
11. Izabella Tashlitskaya, a 61-year-old language teacher, emigrated from Ukraine (the former Soviet Union) in 1989:
"I emigrated in 1989 from Ukraine, which was a part of the USSR. First, we needed to get papers from the Ukrainian government. We went through screening and were interviewed in Austria, were sent to Italy, waited there, and were screened and interviewed again.
We are U.S. citizens and very proud. We need to have immigration law and check who is coming and why — what are their intentions? It was hard to get permission from the U.S. to get here. Many people were waiting in Italy for a year to get permission to enter the country."
12. Funsho Adelabu, a 37-year-old inventory clerk, emigrated from Nigeria in 1997:
"I do agree on certain border laws: if you are an immigrant legally or illegally. Illegals can also get asylum if they do everything needed to done to become legal.
It is not right for the working person to struggle and do everything by the book while others are here getting all the benefits, but not contributing like everyone else."
13. Thuy Wise, a 47-year-old travel agent, emigrated from Vietnam in 1975:
"I came over on Operation Babylift at the fall of Saigon. I was adopted here in the U.S., and I still had to go through the process to become a citizen when I was 18 years old. I think if you want to be here, you do it legally.
I know this world isn't fair, but if someone who came here and was adopted had to go through the process, then everyone should. It shouldn't be different standards for different people. If you are here illegally, then you shouldn't be here at all. Not trying to be harsh, but the entirety of the word 'illegal' means not legal."
14. Sergio Sixto, a 62-year-old retired professional and once a political prisoner of the Castros, emigrated from Cuba in 1992:
“Every country has border laws. It's the same thing in every country. Border laws are similar to the privacy rights every individual has. You can't go into someone's home without asking for permission from them. You can't go into another country without mutual consent.”
15. Maia Wilson, a 49-year-old club manager, emigrated from Canada in 1968:
"Border laws? Yes. Criteria for immigrants? Yes. However, I am blessed by education and looking 'normal.'
Also, the INS was very thorough. I've been a Permanent Resident Alien since 1968. They vetted me thoroughly when I finally applied for citizenship in 2010. I think we have bigger problems with visa overstays, though."
16. Dawn Donnelly, a 45-year-old resource service coordinator, emigrated from Colombia in 1975:
"I absolutely believe in border laws. I think if you come legally it isn't an issue, but if you are sneaking over, absolutely not!
I was adopted at the age of four from Bogotá, Colombia, and taught the importance of our country's laws and stance on our freedoms, I wouldn't trade it for the world! I am a proud American citizen. I came here in 1975."
17. Cindy McCoy, a 31-year-old business analyst, emigrated from Guatemala in 1988:
"We immigrated here on July 2, 1988. I became a citizen in 2001.
My parents waited almost ten years to get their papers. They waited and did it the legal way, and everyone else should, too. It is sad that other countries have serious issues, but it's not the U.S.'s job to take care of everyone's problems. The U.S. needs to take care of their people first."
18. Dominika Ossowska, a 34-year-old financial counselor, emigrated from Poland in 1992:
"I do believe we should have border laws. There needs to be a revamping of our immigration policies and available resources to our border patrol. However, I don't think we should tear families apart who are already here and call this place home.
I came here on a legal visitor visa to join my father who came under political asylum from communism, but I stayed here past the visa expiration, so I was here illegally for a time. So I see both sides of the argument for legal/illegal immigration."
19. Hugh Souvenir Sr., a 63-year-old retired member of the U.S. Air Force, emigrated from Guyana in 1968:
"Every country has a right to protect their borders and let in who they believe will be an asset to the country. Being here illegally does not give you the right to be here.
My mother was a nurse in Guyana, but had to repeat school then sponsor my siblings and me through the embassy. This is a nation of immigrants, but it is also a nation of laws. And if you're here illegally, you have broken the law and should pay the consequences for whatever laws you break."
20. Meagan Moznette, a 30-year-old benefit broker, emigrated from India in 1988:
"I was adopted when I was 16 months old, I am the youngest of six kids in my family. We're all adopted: two of us from India, one from Vietnam, three from the U.S.
My parents were born in the States: Dad is from Georgia, my mom is from California. When they adopted us kids from other countries, they had to go through all sorts of background checks to make sure they were good people, financially secure, and not looking to the government for assistance.
And my whole life growing up, I've been around people who have also adopted, and married someone from another country, and have to go through the whole process to become a citizen. My parents had to go through the whole process that immigrants should be going through. It's not fun, and it's not easy.
Though I do believe people should want more for their lives and want something better, I do feel that they should work for it.
The reason I feel our laws are valuable is because there are people that come here and take advantage of the system somewhat. As taxpayers, we're paying for these people that aren't contributing, but are living off our services. We should be taking care of our own first."
These immigrants' insights offer a unique and powerful perspective into one of America's most controversial political issues.