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Chinese immigrant visiting Steamboat Springs to discuss reform

Teresa Ristow
Helen Raleigh, who is originally from China, will speak Tuesday at Colorado Mountain College about her thoughts on immigration reform.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

What: "A Way Forward" with Helen Raleigh

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15

Where: Albright Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College, 1275 Crawford Blvd.

Cost: Free

— Helen Raleigh arrived in the United States from China in 1996 on a student visa, but because of what she sees as an outdated, poorly organized immigration system, it was 17 years before she became a naturalized citizen.

Raleigh said all of the correspondence between prospective legal immigrants and citizenship officials takes place through the mail, and sometimes, it would take months for her to get a response to something as simple as trying to set up an appointment for a new set of fingerprints.

“We are a country with Google and Apple, and I can not schedule a fingerprint appointment without waiting for a letter,” Raleigh said.

More concerning for Raleigh is how difficult the process is for herself, an employed, college-educated, English-speaking immigrant. She imagines the process would be unbearable for many other prospective immigrants.

Raleigh will share her views on immigration reform and discuss her new book, “The Broken Welcome Mat,” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Albright Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College, 1275 Crawford Blvd. The event is hosted by the Steamboat Institute.

Raleigh said it is the country’s difficult legal immigration system that makes illegal immigration a more attractive option for people wanting to come to the United States.

Because of current regulations and a limited amount of visas for people from each country, the waiting time for someone to emigrate from a place like China is very long, Raleigh said.

The United States is currently processing applications from siblings of current residents who applied to emigrate in May 2003, Raleigh said, meaning if her own sister applied, it could be more than a decade before her application is even touched.

Raleigh said she has her own ideas about how to best reform the country’s immigration policies that she will share Tuesday.

Raleigh said she’s listened to the remarks of President-elect Donald Trump and thinks some of his ideas are good, though she wouldn’t support building a wall along the country’s southern border.

“Some of his ideas I can agree with, and some I can not agree with,” said Raleigh, who noticed that Trump was one of the only candidates this election season who discussed legal immigration reform.

“I am cautiously hopeful,” she said.

Raleigh, who has previously spoken at the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference, said she is looking forward to fielding thoughtful questions from the crowd during her talk.

“This is a hot topic right now, that is dividing our country apart,” Raleigh said. “It’s a very important issue, and we have to address it.”

Tuesday’s event is free, and Raleigh will sign copies of her new book afterward.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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