“Their case is an unfortunate example of what some people resort to when their immigration options are limited. Often, they are willing to take on extremely risky journeys for the chance of a better life. The Patels’ story is proof that an inaccessible immigration system won’t deter migrants whose minds are made up but will instead push them toward unsafe passages.
Local media reported that the Patels, who had worked as schoolteachers in the west Indian state of Gujarat, hoped to create a “new life” in the U.S. Jagdish made just $120 per month working in a local factory, and his wife Vaishaliben dreamed of working in a beauty salon in America. NBC News noted in January that Jagdish “wanted a better education for his kids, as well as better job opportunities and higher pay for himself and his wife, none of which he felt he could find in India.” He looked to one of many advertisements in his town marketing easy passage to the U.S. Thus began the journey that would prove fatal.
For people like the Patels, immigration pathways are limited. Most Indian legal permanent residents of the U.S. have received family-based or employment-based green cards—amounting to 98 percent of visa holders as of 2018. Employment-based channels largely bring in Indian migrants with higher skills and better education than the Patels, and the family did not seem to have relatives in the U.S. who could have sponsored them. Being Indian, they were ineligible for the Diversity Visa that caters to migrants in countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. They likely would not have been eligible for refugee or asylum pathways, given that their reasons for migrating were more rooted in economic reasons than safety concerns.
“These people effectively had no legal options that allowed them to safely travel to the U.S. and work,” says Sam Peak, an immigration policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, a free market think tank.”
“Multiple factors prevented the Patels from reaching the better life they dreamed of having in the U.S. The American immigration system should welcome people who are seeking better opportunities and can improve the economies of their new communities. It may be too late for the Patels, but visa reforms can help prevent future migrant deaths on our borders.”