by Brian Shearer
I was shocked to hear Rick Perry drop this reasonable nugget during the Republican debate on September 22: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.” Why Perry decided to buck his party’s hard-line views on immigration is beyond me. And maybe this was a bit of an overstatement but it was refreshing to see a Republican acknowledge that immigrants are people that deserve some consideration.
Immigrants, even legal immigrants, go through challenges that most people born on this side of the border don’t realize. Of course we need an immigration system that limits the flow of immigrants. But the current system’s faulty process is continually delaying and denying people who meet all the qualifications and would improve our society. The easiest and possibly most significant way to fix to the immigration system is to simplify the process. Let me show you what I am talking about through a simplified example.
Imagine that you are an Indian chemical engineer who wants to work in the US. To obtain an H-1b visa, the most common work visa in the US, you must file an application, which you can do starting on April 1st of each year. However, the regulations state that you cannot start working until October 1st. That’s right. Not only will you need to ask your employer to pay thousands of dollars for your visa, but you will also need to ask if you can delay your start date by six months.
Now, assume that your employer is willing to shell out the cash and wait for you, and that once you arrive, you really want to stay. If your employer likes you and wants to sponsor you for a green card, they can pay several hundred dollars more to file an application to get you in line. Note that this isn’t an application for a green card, it’s an application to get in line and wait some more. This isn’t a fast process: right now, USCIS is reviewing applications to get in line from November 1, 2007. Once you have managed to get in line, you need to wait for your number to be called. For this classification, USCIS is currently calling numbers from November 2005.
During that time, any number of things could happen. You could lose your job and become illegal. Your application could come back because you made a mundane mistake on one of your many application forms. Your employer might have maxed-out its profit for tax purposes, making USCIS think that it has no money to pay your salary. Or maybe your job becomes classified as a non-specialty occupation, or the quotas are decreased, or some other policy changes. Like a real-life board game, any of these things could send you back to Start.
After waiting for anywhere between 3 and 10 years, you finally get a green card (again, you’ll pay several hundred dollars). Five years later, you can file for citizenship. This will cost you an additional $680, andyour application will be scrutinized to make sure that there are no discrepancies between this application and the applications that you filed 8 – 15 years ago. And in case you were wondering, there is a high probability that, if you did not pay a lawyer thousands of dollars at each phase of the process, your application will have discrepancies.
The immigration process is expensive, bureaucratic, and complicated. There are huge waits and many ways to fall out of status during those waits. Thousands of people have been booted out of the system due to paperwork errors and misunderstandings. The perceived barrier to entry discourages thousands of others. One way to limit the amount of illegal immigration is to make the legal immigration process less burdensome. We need real comprehensive immigration reform now!