Wednesday, April 26, 2006
There is one thing that I have found to be an obnoxious omission in the recent immigration debate, the plight of the legal immigrant. I am constantly in awe of the brand quality that is "America". Yes, we may be hated all over the world but according to the rest of the world, America is still the land of opportunity. People come from near and far through legal channels to set down their roots in what they perceive to be more fertile ground for prosperity. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and was exposed to a broad swath of immigrants. There were Europeans who came here because they were fed up with the economic malaise that dominates across the pond. Asians, Arabs, and Africans who often were part of the professional class in their home countries but were reduced to driving cabs or mopping floors (work is work but going from running a surgery to driving a taxi has to be a tough pill to swallow) in their adopted countries but considered the sacrifice worthwhile as their children would be able to become part of the educated class in a country were political strife was not the norm. Regardless, of their backgrounds, the common denominator was that these immigrants all shared the pain in the ass that the US immigration process is. The well to do hire lawyers to navigate this diahreal mass of laws and regulations. Those less financially able simply persist. However, due to the complexities of the law and a generally unresponsive bureaucracy, formally INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) now CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services, the process is time and financially intensive and the customer service is piss-poor. One would think that when a skilled worker is willing to incur huge personal sacrifices to become an American, we would simply open the door and welcome them, but through bureaucratic bungling we kick them in the teeth instead. Yet they still come. This is remarkable but not indefinite. At some point other countries will catch up and market themselves as viable alternatives for skilled workers. The U.S. has to streamline its immigration process for those who come here through legal channels and should expand legal immigration. Otherwise we will lose the attendant benefits of immigration, the infusion of human capitol and the enrichment of our society through different cultural influences, from which our country has gained so much.