Saturday, March 29, 2008

The truth about legal immigration in the US

An immigrant family arrives to the US at Ellis Island

A hopeful immigrant holds some of the paperwork needed for his spouse visa

OK, recently we've decided that part of the reason this blog exists is to bring light to some of the facts, myths, and injustices in the world of US immigration because our lives have been permanently affected by them.

So first, we've got to clarify what it takes to immigrate to the US. In the olden days, people could arrive to the US on a ship, full of hopes and willingness to work hard, sign their name to a register, get a medical check-up, and start a life full of promise in the US. It is no longer even remotely this simple.

According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are four ways a person can immigrate to the US:
  • Be one of the rare winners of the US State Department's Diversity Lottery. This only applies to people from certain countries (most of the world's largest ones are excluded), and requires experience in a particular occupation or academic training.
  • Get sponsored by an employer. Note: Only applies to high-skilled professionals in extremely specific fields, like certain doctors, scientists, researchers, or religious workers. The employer has to get special approval from the US government certifying the need for a foreign worker.
  • Be a very wealthy and successful investor ready to start or take over a capital enterprise.
  • Be immediately related to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident.
As you can see, this system leaves out a lot of people. It leaves out the British art school grad who wants to work at Starbucks, learn the culture and become a typical American. It leaves out the Brazilian architect who wants to bring her skills to the US for a better future. It leaves out the hardworking Bulgarian baker who has a dream of starting his own bakery in the US. And obviously, it leaves out the low-skilled Mexican and Central American laborers willing to work long hours in construction, factory work, or landscaping to keep the US economy afloat.

Probably not eligible for a US immigrant visa

Sorry, no visa for you, either!

For those fortunate to qualify under one of these four categories, entering the US is still often unreachable. That last category I mentioned, the US relative category, is a very common way for people to apply for a visa. However, even having a US relative doesn't often get you into the US on time to make much of your dreams.

Example: If you are a citizen of the Philippines and you applied for a US immigrant visa through your brother in 1986, you would still, to this day, be waiting for your visa. That's 22 years of waiting! (See the Visa Bulletin for this data)

In other words, for the vast majority of people on Earth, immigrating to the US legally simply is not possible.

While I'm not condoning illegal immigration, I simply want to point out how truly difficult it is for the well-intentioned, hard-working dreamers of the world to immigrate to the US.

For a more graphic approach to what is written here, I refer you to the incredibly clever flowchart devised by, aptly named, "What part of legal immigration don't you understand?"


laurafern11 said...

Great post Amy!

DeBenny said...

Amy this is fantastic! Awesome!

Brad said...

Perhaps this is the way it should be. Immigrants (illegal/legal and their children) make up almost 100% of the population increase in the US. Native born US population numbers are self sustaining. It currently takes 12 acres of undeveloped land to be developed for each new person. The entire south western part of the US is in a drought. The 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to address is: "what should the population of the US be?" 300, 400, 500 million, even more? Where are we going to get the resources? Are we going to be in a continual fight/war for raw materials, food, energy and water? According to research, if the current illegal alien population were legalized, the US population would increase to over 400 million in the next 40 years. This would be due to family chain immigration and the increased birthrates of immigrants. While we as a country have always openly accepted immigrants (we currently take in more immigrants then the rest of the world combined) the fact is current population growth is not sustainable. This is not the late 1800s or early 1900s. We really must address the problem before the life boat called the United States gets so full it capsizes. We can not solve the world's problems by allowing everyone who wants to come here to do so. We have to think of the future we are leaving for our children.

Dan said...

Brad you said it. This is not the 1800's or early 1900's. In other words, your classical understanding of economic growth was tossed out the window a century ago when people started to understand that institutions, technology, and time are the real drivers of economic growth. Innovation separates us from the animal kingdom, and profits drive innovation. When the Black Plague took a bite out of Europe's population in the 14th century, the common understanding was that the European population, like some animal species, had exceeded its limits, and was being driven back to its equilibrium. How ridiculous does that sound today in an age where we've developed effective sewage and waste systems? When H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine at the turn of the century, he was sure that the increasing population would doom civilization as the working and elite classes diverged dramatically. Before Wells even died, the middle class had flourished, dismissing his doomsday fears. History repeats itself, and history has shown that overpopulation is one of the more misguided objections to immigration. By the way, if the US Native population is self-sustaining, why is Social Security blowing up?

Dan said...

Oh, and next time you want to get philosophical with people you don't know, shoot me an e-mail, but don't talk about it so callously on my sister's blog. She can't bring her husband into her own country, and you're talking about 12 acres of undeveloped land.

Bridget said...

Well said Dan!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog keep up the great work. Go Dan!

Lynette Rodriguez-Flores said...

Wow, excellent article! This is fabulous, good work!

Lynette Rodriguez-Flores said...

Wow, excellent article! This is fabulous, good work!

Amanda said...

I love the pictures on the top of this post. You are an excellent writer and I would love to somehow post this particular post on my site. Is that ok, or even possible? I dont think I am as smooth with my words as you are in this post. You did a great job with it. I love the real life examples. So few people have any idea. I know Iv said it before but thank you for your blogging I wish Id have started mine before so as to find others like you.

Amy G said...

Anonymous, your comment (posted Dec. 20) was deleted because you violated the clearly written terms in the comment box.

benson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christy said...

Amy, wonderful post as always!!! I will continue to pray that your family is reunited here in the U.S. as it should be!

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