Musings on Immigration

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All I Want For Christmas Is a Point-System

I think I changed my mind about a point-system for immigration purposes. There, I said it. In my defense, though, I did not come to this decision lightly. No, this comes as a result of years of watching hard-working people from all over the world get the short end of the stick based on some technicality in our immigration laws.

In immigration and in life, it’s often the people in the middle, the ones who go about their work, who mind their own business, who take care of themselves and their families, who go ignored, because immigration, like life, is not fair. As a society, we tend to cater to the “least of these” and to the “most of these,” leaving everyone in the middle to fend for themselves. Unless you’re a superstar or a billionaire with boatloads to invest, or you’re miserably poor and sick without a prayer in the world, this country’s immigration system turns its back on you, and as a result: WE’RE DEPORTING THE WRONG PEOPLE!

Don’t get me wrong – we’re not deporting ALL the wrong people. Laws exist for a reason, and they try to encompass what will be most fair for most people. The issue with immigration law is that it is so discretionary, but discretion seems to be exercised on all the wrong people. A “point-system,” which takes into account things like: a clean criminal record, an impressive academic history and achievements, economic contributions and paying taxes, English proficiency, and likeliness to not make use of public assistance, could be a great way to for the U.S. to keep immigrants who are productive members of society, but who aren’t among the wealthy 1% who can invest their way out of their woes, or down-and-out enough to qualify on a “hardship” claim.

Take Person A, for example. He is a bright young man. One point. He’s bilingual. Two points. He works hard, takes care of his wife and new baby, and has a clean record except for a speeding ticket. Three points. Despite being brought to the U.S. illegally as a young child by his parents, he graduated at the top of his class with especially high marks in math and physics and a strong desire to go to college and study aerospace engineering (which, last I checked, was one of the areas of study deemed as a great need for the future of this country). Ten points. Instead he’s taking voluntary departure because the only thing he did wrong aside from follow his parents to the U.S. when he was nine years old was fall in love with and marry a non-U.S. Citizen and have a healthy baby boy. His child isn’t sick enough, and his wife isn’t poor enough or American enough, so forget about all the points he may have racked up, we’ve kicked this future engineer to the curb.

Person B is a successful businessman. One point. He speaks fluent English and lives happily with his professional, educated wife. Two points. He owns his own company and provides jobs to dozens of workers in his area, even in a time of economic downturn. Ten points. And he’s on the next plane home, to the dismay of even the ICE officers who took him into custody.

Person C is a young woman who can barely read or write in her own language, let alone in English. She has three children, all of whom receive Medicaid, WIC or Social Security Disability. Throughout her years in the country she has openly admitted to using at least three different Social Security numbers to obtain work, but now relies on her son’s Social Security Disability payment for a significant portion of her monthly earnings. Due to the medical conditions of her two youngest children (one has a disability the other is severely autistic) she qualifies for “extreme hardship” and wins her right to stay in the U.S. In person, she’s thoughtful and sweet and her condition merits sympathy, to be sure. But should sympathy and hardship be the only qualifiers? I don’t think so.

I’m not advocating for her removal, or for the removal of anyone subject to extreme hardship, for that matter. I think it is admirable and very humanitarian of the U.S. to consider the plight of the poor. But I am suggesting that it seems unfair, to both hardworking immigrants and to this country as a whole, to “dump” people simply because they don’t qualify under a hardship clause. How many businessmen (or businesswomen), or engineers or scientists have we deported? We are supposed to be a nation that inspires the best in people, yet we’re throwing away some of our most valuable resources and wondering why other countries are emerging more powerful and making strides in science and technology that we are not.

With any luck, a reform package will be discussed in the next year or so. I can only hope it includes some sort of relief for those “in-between” people. Not everyone can buy or marry their way out of an immigration problem, and we’ve got to start keeping some of the smart people.

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