American dream : Sugar-coated pill that turns sour

People in Nepal, especially youths, are so frustrated that they do almost anything to enter the United States. Once they get in they hardly give coming back a thought, no matter how grave the risks or difficulties they run into. Surprisingly, the craze leads Nepali youths to pay a fortune to live their American dream. These youths range from barely literate to highly qualified. This year alone, 40 persons in a group entered US with valid visa from the American Embassy. They were given three months’ working visa in a company packaging DVDs. Unfortunately, more than 90 per cent of them disappeared from the airport before they reached the company. The rest disappeared from the company before they completed their three months’ contract term. Last week there was news in The Himalayan Times that 100 Nepali workers disappeared from an American company and neither the company nor the US government knew their whereabouts.

Even more surprising is the fact that while many students aspiring to study in the US are denied visas, the American embassy easily gives visas to barely literate people, who have no other objective but to work there illegally. The embassy granting visas to Nepalis, knowing that they would disappear in the US, is a serious mistake. A person pays an agent a large amount of money for such entry. Forty people who went to the US in mid-2007 paid almost 1.5 million (Rs.15 lakh) per person to the agent. Moreover, the agent had asked the applicants to book a return ticket on the condition that the amount would be refunded at the US airport. This clearly indicates that the agent was aware of the fact that none of the applicants would disappear and work in other places illegally.

Now let us talk about those educated (holders of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees) paying 15 lakhs and disappearing illegally in the US. Those who can pay such a

huge amount must be from relatively

affluent families. That means they belong to the very few “haves” in Nepal. Should

not they think about the future of their

children? Once they stay illegally in the US, they can be deported any time or may be jailed there as per the US regulation. Nepali workers who had disappeared a week ago have not only invited trouble for themselves but their families back home. It is because of the lack of prospects at home that parents want their children to go abroad. However, they could motivate them to invest the same amount to start some small business of their own.

Now let us assess what they may have been doing in the US. Most of the illegal immigrants in the US end up doing manual work. They cannot bargain for their wages and have to keep themselves contented with the money they get. Usually, the money that they earn is even insufficient to pay for their accommodation. Moreover, they don’t even earn enough to eat, leave alone save something for their future. They will not have their social security and hence find difficulty depositing their little savings, if any, in bank; things become worse when they become ill. Many Nepali families in the US are also found encouraging their relatives to enter US by any means assuring them that jobs are readily available.

Unless one is fortunate enough, most of them end up earning 5-6 dollars an hour. If one works 8 hours a day for 5 working days a week, one is barely able to earn 1,000 dollars a month. With this little amount of money they cannot in any way be expected to save (staying in a group of 10-12 and not eating enough) $ 150-200 a month. It would require eight years of hard work to recover 15 lakhs which they paid to the agents to get to the US. Naturally, eight years is quite a long period, and without further opportunities of education they finally end up being low wage-earners throughout their lives. If they happened to get

more jobs, they would have less time to sleep which would adversely affect their health in the long run. Definitely, this is not what the parents or families of migrants would want back home. Is it better than

the interest they can generate from 15 lakhs? Is it profitable for those who have completed higher education?

Taking the plunge, before thinking about the consequences of living an American dream, is not only a huge loss to the aspiring migrant but also to the family and the country. Disappearance itself is a disgrace to the image of Nepalis. Furthermore, parents cannot rest in peace, while they

know that their children have been leading a hard life in a foreign land. Many parents are happy to receive a few hundred dollars sent by their children not knowing that this sugar-coated pill would later kill them alive. Parents should understand that their children don’t complain or share their grievances because they don’t want their parents to worry themselves to death. Unless parents understand this hard fact and convince their children to stay back home, the only choice they would have is to repent their decisions later.

Dr Wagley is an educationist