Justin Beiber and “José Pérez”

Much has been said about Justin Bieber’s case. Unless you live under a rock, you probably already know that even CNN had to stop an important interview with a US Congresswoman in order to report about the Biebs’ arrest. There is much that can be said about the whole thing, but I want to focus my attention on the one thing that has been abuzz around Spanish media but completely ignored by the mainstream media: Justin Bieber’s immigration status.

That is right, my dear Bielevers… The Biebs is 100% foreigner. He’s an immigrant worker. Like Ted Cruz, maple syrup and socialized medical care, the Biebs comes from Canada! Living and working in the United States legally, Justin Bieber should still be bound by the immigration laws of the great United States. This means that, for his infractions (driving under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances, drag racing and resisting arrest) he should be placed on deportation proceedings. But of course, this is not possible to do with a white, English-speaking, rich, young man. These immigration laws and procedures only apply to brown-skinned, middle-class, poor, and non-English-speaking residents.

Imagine for a second that the person arrested was not Bieber, but José Pérez (these being the most common first and last names throughout the Spanish-speaking world.) Imagine if a hard-working, young, Hispanic male was arrested for DUI, drag racing and resisting arrest on the streets of Miami? And I am not going to say an undocumented immigrant; but a legal resident. Someone who entered the country legally – say from Colombia or Venezuela, which are the two largest non-Cuban communities in Miami. What would have happened? Certainly, not a $2,500 fine and a slap on the wrist. If José Pérez had been caught on this situation, his family would be visiting him at the Glades County Detention Center right now, waiting for a judge to set a hearing, and certain that his legal residency status would be revoked and he would be deported. José Pérez’s family would be scrambling and trying to find the money for the onerous fine imposed by the judge while visiting a few dozen lawyers trying to find who would give them the chance to pay on installments. José Pérez would not be waving at his fans from the roof of a limo while surrounded by bodyguards, but rather waving at his children from inside a federal vehicle who will be transporting him from one detention center to another while a judge decides when to grant him a hearing.

This is what is wrong with the system. This immigration system works pretty well for the wealthy, white, English-speaking immigrant like Bieber. But it is hell for the one that is “the other.” Every day, thousands of men and women of all ages are placed on deportation procedures for less than what Bieber did. Yet, he walks out with a big smile and the certainty that no one will do anything against him. Why? Why are we allowing this system to continue? Why do we have these double standards in immigration? And when are we going to acknowledge that the current system does not work and needs to be fixed?

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