Please allow me to express my dissatisfaction with the powers that be. My dissatisfaction is on a subject that is less likely to be familiar with most of your readers. It is not given the coverage in mainstream media it deserves.
It is the subject of legal immigration. That is not a typo. I do not want to talk about illegal immigration, the cause of so much controversy and brouhaha; but rather its less evil and more law-abiding twin.
On the one hand, I wish legal immigration would cause its own controversy. At least that would create some form of discussion and debate around it. It would force the eternally sacred tax payers to pay attention. It would force the more obsequious and attention seeking politicians something else to take a stand on. For at least as long as the soundbites last. Mostly, though, it would give me and my other green card applicants-in-arms something to hang a morsel of hope on. Instead of being relegated to the state of oblivion it is now.
Legal immigrants fall into various categories but they generally all follow the same course. We are allowed into the US on some kind of temporary visa (example, H1B work visa) and in time we apply for a change in status ( i.e., a green card) that will allow us to stay in the country indefinitely and with far more freedom than the temporary visa allowed. This green card application is reviewed, as it should be, to make sure that the applicant is worthy of permanent residency status. Does the applicant provide a valuable contribution to the country? Or would they be a burden to the US economy? Have they obeyed the law? Or are they a threat to national security?
The frustration sets in with the process that is set in place. The word 'process' implies movement. It suggests that your paperwork will progress through the various stages. The word 'process' puts a far too optimistic outlook on our plight. We need another word. What word could better describe this situation? Stagnant. And circuitous. Heartbreakingly endless. Shrouded in mystery. Dispiriting to tens of thousands. Who are these tens of thousands and why should your readers care about them? They range in age, ethnicity, background, and values. You can consider them a mini-melting pot within the already existing cauldron. All of them, however, have certain things in common with each other as well as with Americans.
Like all law-abiding Americans, they pay taxes. Like all hardworking Americans, they provide valuable contributions to American companies. And just like their American counterparts, they give the best of themselves each and everyday. They adapt to American culture by learning English - if they did not already have an excellent command of the language. They help fill the gap in engineering and science that American high schools and colleges cannot. A trend that is so worrisome to parents, teachers and politicians that there are several initiatives in place to get the US back on track. In the meantime, it is the legal immigrants that help American companies to remain competitive in the global economy. Did I mention that they pay taxes. They cannot vote, though. "No taxation without representation." Wasn't there an altercation based on this very premise a few years ago? I digress.
We were talking about the green card 'process'. Applicants can wait up to 7 or 8 or more years before being granted a green card. In the meantime? They are limited as to who they can work for. If they change employers, this will require the process to start all over again. They are limited to how far they can get promoted. If their promotion leads them to be categorized differently, it may mean that they have to go back to square one. They are limited to where in the country they can work. A change in address can also be cause to restart the process. Generally, spouses of applicants are not allowed to work until green card is granted.
The picture that I hope I am painting is one in which lives are on hold. For years. Time is not the only sacrifice, though. There are lost career opportunities, lost earnings, indefinitely delayed life decisions. Patience gives way to frustration. And another year goes by. Colleagues continue to progress in their careers. Others change careers with, what my restricted perspective can only allow me to describe as, wild abandon. And then another year. I cannot imagine any American putting up with this degree of mismanaged bureaucracy.
Various reasons lie behind this ineptness. And various solutions have been suggested. I will not bore you or your readers with the finer details. The only points that I want the reader to take away are the following:
- Legal immigrants provide vitally important contributions each and everyday to the bottom line of the American economy . And one very substantial contribution one every year on April 15th.
- We are not asking for handouts or an amnesty. We are only asking for our hard work to be recognized. Recognized and rewarded in the form of a timely green card in return for the years of hard work. Nothing in life is guaranteed. But the green card process should not be a careless gamble upon which we stake our life decisions on.
- The entire process needs to be thrust into the light and revamped to be more efficient so that immigrants who work hard, obey the law, and pay taxes are rewarded appropriately instead of being punished by endless wait times.
The picture that I do not want to paint is that of an ingrate. This is truly a great country to make a life in. It takes hardworking, honest, dedicated, smart, ambitious people to make it run.
Every legal immigrant I know fits the bill.
Jason Alexander is a highly-skilled legal immigrant.
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