The realities of Immigration

This week, the Trump Administration announced their intention of changing the immigration code in the United States (link to a GOP senator’s site). The bill, called the RAISE Act, is meant to change the immigration code by:

  • Reducing the amount of Legal immigration by half by 2027
  • Eliminate the Diversity Green Card program, giving 50,000 spots to people from low application countries.
  • Limit Refugee intake to 50,000 a year, and make that law.
  • Introduce a points system for skilled migration based on merit.

The reaction to this has been flying across the internet, with the big talking point about the ability to gain a visa if you are an Olympic Athlete or given extra points for fluency in English. There is a lot of anger, but also a lot of misinformation being bandied about, and I feel that as someone who has now worked through two separate immigration systems multiple times, needs to comment on this.

Firstly, I can only speak about my experiences and my perception. What is true for me may not be true for others, and frankly, being a White American means that a lot of my trials are nothing compared to others. With that said, let’s dive in.

Firstly, I feel that just because other countries use a point system (Australia, Canada, New Zealand), it doesn’t mean it is the best, nor most fair system for immigration. Also, it is important to note that not all visas in these countries require a point system. In Australia and New Zealand, the points system is used only when there are no other “reasons” for the person to be moving to the country. This means that if you are in a relationship, or sponsored by a company already, or anything like that, you are fine, and not covered.

Australia and New Zealand also have “Investment Visa” meaning that if you invest money into the country, you get a visa. There has been an issue in NZ with Peter Thiel being given NZ Citizenship after spending only 12 days in the country, (and paying a lot of money). Unfortunately, money does talk, regardless of the country you live in.

Also, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have very liberal “working holiday” visas, which allow people, usually under 30, to be able to live and travel in the country long term (from 1-2 years in most cases). This is how I originally moved to Australia, and it was a Visa that took about  3 Hours to approve.  These visas work well because it allows people to come see the country, work there (often in casual or seasonal jobs) and then leave (or find another visa to stay). The United States does not have any such visa.

The Diversity Lottery is a truly unique American ideal, and one I feel should stay. The United States is thought of as “the land of opportunity” and the Diversity lottery is one of those things that makes our country look appealing to those in the rest of the world. I have a couple of friends who have moved to the US on a Diversity Lottery, and I feel that the those opportunities represent the best of the US, and we shouldn’t kill that program for political points of the moment. We lose that, and we lose a bit of what makes the US awesome.

The limitation of Refugees is stupid. The world changes and situation may arise when we should (like right now) be allowing more people in. We used to bring in 100’s of thousands of Refugees a year in the US, and it did not make us a worse off country, and the continued vilification of refugees is par for the course for an Administration who equates foreign with bad.

The English requirement feels a lot like a racist hurdle put in place to slow down non-English immigration. It is a big issue I have with the Australian and New Zealand Immigration programs as well. If you do not speak English, your fees to get a Visa double, at the very least. While I understand the fees for translating official documents like Birth Certificates or Marriage licenses, in Australia, there is a straight up fee if you cannot speak English fluently, even if you are not trying for a work visa. The United States should not have an English requirement for their Visas, and to impose one would continue the isolation of the US from the rest of the world.

I think that the skilled Migrant Visa is a good idea… to a point. In Australia and New Zealand, we face skills shortages across the country. In New Zealand, it is actually construction jobs that are in sharp need atm. I feel that having a point system can be beneficial in some areas of immigration, but it cannot be used to cut migration by half, or worse, keep people out that you politically do not like. The United State’s strength is in its ability to accept everyone, and making it work. We want smart, intelligent people, but we also want those who need opportunity, who escape violence and death, or people who are following love. We need to reach out so that young people come to the US and see the amazing diversity, and that it is more than what we see in the news headlines. We want people to come to the US to study, to create value, to broaden our horizons. We need immigrants because without them, we would start losing population ourselves… for a start.

The Trump/GOP immigration plan continues the century long Conservatives hysteria that outsiders are bad and that nativism is good. I feel that, like many situations in the United States currently, there needs to be a change, but destroying the system, and putting a half-assed plan in its place is not the answer. It won’t work with healthcare, it will not work with tax reform, and it is not going to work with immigration.

I wish that political parties would stop using immigrants as their scapegoats and attend to the actual issues rather than blaming those who cannot fight back politically (since we can’t vote for the most part).

To cut immigration by half in the US is to cut off its own nose to spite its face. Isolating ourselves from the world by making it harder to come to the US will only push more countries away and lose our standing in the world. By copying the worst parts of other Immigration policies around the world, the US is showing that is no longer leads, only copies poorly what other nations have done and are considering to change.

My immigration experience has generally been good. Being a white American, who speaks English fluently, and have a degree… I actually wouldn’t qualify for a skilled migrant visa in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, the UK, or elsewhere. The only way I have been able to stay here is through my relationship, or through direct sponsorship, which I was offered at one point, but passed on. I knew the moment I saw the headline “would you be let in with Trump’s new immigration rules?” it would be a no.

To further close off our shores betrays the foundations of our nation, and what we represent. And while I know we cannot stay the same forever, closing our borders makes us a smaller, meaner, and less deserving country. You cannot be the leader of the Free World while slamming the door in everyone’s face.

 

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