As immigration advocates we generally find ourselves in the position of trying to rationally explain rules and regulations that we personally find maddening. Maddening how? Well, come with me for a few moments as I sit down with “Muresh” and discuss immigration rules with him. He’s not real but, maddeningly, his story is.
Muresh is from India. He came to the US when he was 18 years old. He attended a prestigious US university and obtained his bachelor’s degree in computer science with honors. Muresh decided he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in computer science and moved on to another US university where he earned his advanced degree. While studying for his master’s, Muresh met the love of his life, a fellow student who also hailed from India. Muresh was thrilled, his fiancée was thrilled, his parents were thrilled. Life was good and soon they were married. Muresh and his wife obtained six figure positions in large employers in the IT field.
They were living the American dream. They were just like the “rest of us” or so they thought. They bought a house in the suburbs, paid taxes on their salaries, went to the farmer’s market on Saturdays and out to dinner whenever they could. Soon, they were expecting a child. Their joy knew no bounds. They had it all.
Then Muresh’s employer asked me to explain to Muresh why he and his wife would have to wait 8 years for a green card based upon the current system. I was asked essentially to explain the unexplainable. Muresh sounded hopeful on the phone so I knew I would have to crush his hopes gently with the truth of the matter. Should I retell the EB-2 v. EB-3 story for the 100,000th time in my career? (Shorthand: very smart v. not smart enough.) Or should we just go with the reality that our antiquated system allows only 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas for hundreds of thousands of applicants?
While the system is antiquated and the maximum number of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas is arcane for the world’s best economy, we can and must do better with the cards we have been dealt. INA §201(d)(1)(A) does not proscribe the method of distribution for employment-based immigrant visas nor does it explicitly state that Muresh and his wife should be counted for two visas rather than one against the quota. Therefore, it would seem that this issue is ripe for an administrative resolution.
The benefits to addressing the reallocation of employment-based immigrant visas are great. It all breaks down to three points both political parties should agree on:
- We are a nation that wants the best and brightest so why are we making those whom we claim to desire most wait the longest? We should be welcoming them and thanking them for staying to use their talents to benefit our great country. After all, why is the United States educating these talented men and women if we do not want to keep them?
- It’s the economy, right? All of these individuals are earning good salaries at employers around the USA. They are paying federal and state taxes (well in Massachusetts they are paying state taxes). They are buying houses, shopping and generally adding to our economy. Why would we want this economic benefit to leave?
- They’ve done everything right, they got in line! Isn’t that what all the hardliners tell folks to do? Muresh got an F-1 visa, two or three H-1B visas (if he’s lucky) and then applied for a green card. He did it all the right way. Why is our messed up immigration system punishing him for doing exactly what he ought?
It boils down to this: by counting the principal immigrant and his or her derivatives as a single family unit, we would reduce the current immigrant visa backlogs in both the employment-based category and even the family-based preference category. There is no rational reason to not employ this administrative fix to help thousands of people obtain their green cards and achieve their American Dreams. We can do better, and we should, for the benefit of all.
Written by Matt Maiona, Member, AILA Media Advocacy Committee