Drawing Lines in the Immigration Debate

There comes a point in the U.S. immigration debate when I really question what ‘camp’ can I really fit under. It happens when advocates of undocumented students scoff at the lives and dreams of legal immigrants to the United States and support restrictions rather than critical reforms to the H-1 B program.

Senator Durbin–a great advocate of the necessary DREAM Act for undocumented kids–is nonetheless also the chief sponsor of a bill to curb H-1 B visas. I can’t stand behind Durbin when he sponsors one group of immigrants over another.

The H-1 B system is badly in need of reform–the tethering of the Green Card immigrant to her/his employer oftentimes becomes a decade-long exploitation with no guarantee of permanent residency down the road. And with cutbacks in education spending in the United States,  including little incentive to pursue careers in technology, where do employers go to find workers? It is no wonder that big business supports the DREAM Act, which would give employers a small pool of productive immigrants to hire. Without the act, we are left with businesses outsourcing jobs to countries like India. We are certainly better off with a system that allows for greater skilled labor migration to this country because immigration is no zero sum game. The presence of skilled immigrants has greatly benefited this country and enriched the lives of American-born citizens.

Indian American students are having a tough time due to new Congressional rules whereby banks are no longer giving H-1 B visas to educated immigrants. Internships and loans are also drying up. This is horribly short-sighted as a DNA India article explicates:

But US immigration bureaucracy and protectionism is now rattling Indian students. Academics in the US say that making it harder to hire foreigners is not good economic policy, but short-sighted xenophobia as the US will need them again when the economy turns up.

“America is the top destination for foreign students, but if they get the signal that the US doesn’t want them, then they will head to the United Kingdom and Australia,” Vivek Wadhwa, a Duke University adjunct professor who conducts research into the immigrant jobs market, told DNA.

As promigrant advocates, we really have nothing to gain by resenting well-educated, innovative talent only because it is legally present in America. Instead of placing the claims of undocumented immigrants above legal immigrants, why not work together to reform the outdated, dysfunctional system?

Quoting DreamACTivist:

It is sad that the issue of immigration is often conveyed as a matter of legal vs. ‘illegal’ immigrants when the lines are constructed and often more blurry. The reverse brain drain of skilled immigrants from the United States is as detrimental to the economy as the exploitation of undocumented workers and the loss of productivity due to raid and deportations.

Fighting each other for visa numbers and categories is counter-productive. The quagmire is part of an outdated and broken immigration policy that needs to be reversed not through ‘either/or’ policies, but through a careful, nuanced and sensible approach on what is best for this country and the people caught up in this system.

I’ll go freelance for now with no associations to major immigration advocacy organizations.

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