US Immigration Reform: Why The Future is Bleak for Foreigners (and ultimately all Americans)

We often get asked here why things never seem to change in terms of US Immigration Reform and thus why we continue to have situations like;

– High Skilled Immigrants waiting for over 10 years in Waiting Lists to get their Green Card
Foreigners forced to stay in same jobs and forgo promotions, new jobs, help innovation and pay increases for 10+ years (and thus allowing critics to say foreigners are depressing wages)
– Companies like Microsoft are forced to open their R&D innovation center across the border in Canada where the skilled immigration laws are logical (therefore lost tax revenue for the US and less US jobs)
52% of Silicon Valley Companies have at least one immigrant co-founder employing hundreds of thousands of Americans and contribute billions of tax dollars to all Americans (inc. Google, Intel, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, Paypal, etc.) yet we are forcing these companies to now base themselves overseas
– 84% of the Green Cards issues each year are for family and diversity reasons with only 16% awarded to high skilled talent (this compares poorly with countries like Canada, Australia, etc. where most permanent residents are high skilled talent)
– Thousands of dollars, long application processing periods and illogical visa criteria mean that foreigners constantly live in a state of fear in US
Illegal Immigration continue to remain an issue with no practical solution ever proposed and implemented and thus the issue of Legal Immigration continues to be pushed back

Vivek Wadhwa, who we often reference here has written a piece for the Washington Post about by Americans are so afraid of Immigrants. The reality is that this anti Immigrant sentiment in the US has existed throughout its history, it is just that the target group has changed. The Irish, Africans, Germans, Italians, Russians, Japanese and Jews were all big targets in days gone by for harsh treatment, bad feeling and sometimes actual law prohibiting them doing things. Today it is the Indians & Chinese that largely feel the brunt of anti immigrant sentiment on the legal side and Mexicans on the illegal side.

If you read Mr Wadhwa’s column and the comments underneath as well as watch the video there you will realize why this issue has no end in sight despite what President Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney may say in this Presidential year. Public sentiment in the US in this bad economic period regarding Immigration is low on both sides. There are loud anti-immigrant voices on both sides. On one hand on the right just so myopically focussed on building fence on the southern border and deporting any illegal in site. Then on the left unions and other workers blaming immigrants for their own bleak economic predicaments rather than the American politicians, American CEOs of bankrupt, bailed out and major layoff companies and the wider American populace for running up huge debt.

From a politicians perspective, Immigrants are never a constituency they have to worry too much about because they can’t vote. Generally it is half measure like President Obama’s recent directive to de-prioritize deportation of low risk illegal immigrants (i.e. children) to appeal to the large Latino populace in the country who are often friends and family of these illegal immigrants particularly in important swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. There were 400,000 immigrants deported in 2011, mainly of Hispanic descent and this was clearly a politically motivated decision in terms of timing in an election year.

Because of the medium term benefit of having a pro skilled immigration policy being years in advance (i.e. Sergei Brin studies for 4 years at Stamford, co-founds Google in 1996 which goes public in 2004) not fitting into with the 2-6 year cycle of electing Congressmen, Senators and Presidents, the political will is also low.

While it is the Immigrants who pay the initial price for the status quo and Immigration reform inaction, it is ultimately all Americans that will feel the  brunt of the terrible policies of today. However if you are an Immigrant in the US today continue to persevere in your dream to live in the US regardless of the tough journey that lays ahead. Know that there are thousands of people going through exactly what you are experiencing, having the same questions and fears and enduring the same frustrations and anger that you have each day.

There is small pockets of movements in more modern companies looking at a more egalitarian approach to employment and actively learning more about foreign immigration rules. Hopefully more of these companies and leaders become the giants of tomorrow and are able to effect change. Although Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are huge advocates of much greater foreign immigration for prosperity in the US and even their considerable power and influence hasn’t changed much.


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