This week congressional leaders, with support of the President, announced that after months of negotiations they have agreed on a proposal to allow an estimated 12 million illegal residents to become citizens of the United States of America. For Mexican-born Juan, an uneducated agricultural worker, the proposal gives him a clear path to a green card and US citizenship. Ironically the green card hopes of Blanche, a 31-year old legally-employed computer programmer, are fading. Despite her perfect English, charming personality, excellent job performance, rare skills and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Blanche may soon be headed back to India forever, her American dream shattered.
Born in India in 1975, Blanche dreamed even as a child to someday live and work in the United States. Enrolled in Catholic, English-speaking schools, she studied hard throughout her elementary and high school years, graduating with honors. In 1997 Blanche finally got a student visa and came alone to the United States, enrolling at Michigan State University as a biology major. With some limited financial help from her parents in India, she worked on campus to earn a few extra bucks. Without the money to live in a nice apartment or party on weekends, she studied instead. During her senior year at the university, she discovered a shocking realization; she would not be able to stay in the United States after graduating college with major in biology. Complicated H1-B visa laws granted opportunities only for those with more marketable majors such as engineering, medicine, and computer science. Blanche stayed at MSU an extra year, adding a major in computer science to her resume.
After graduation Blanche was heavily recruited and got a position with a major hospital in Michigan. Along with that job came an H1-B visa, allowing Blanche to live and work in the US for three years, plus an additional three-year extension as long as she was gainfully employed. She would, however, eventually need an employer-sponsored green card to remain permanently in the United States. After working four years with the hospital and despite excellent employment reviews, she was told by the administration of the hospital that due to the lengthy and difficult green card application process, the hospital was only sponsoring green cards for physicians.
Now Blanche was four years into her six-year H1-B visa deadline. Because it offered her no hope for a green card she quit her job at the hospital. She was hired by a major accounting firm, where she was promised that the application for her green card would be processed, but only after she had been employed for a year. Now, five and a half years into her six year visa, her employer is working through the application process for Blanche’s green card. They must hire immigration lawyers, place expensive ads for Blanche’s position in major newspapers to make sure that no native workers are qualified for her position, and put up with countless delays from US immigration authorities. The last time she checked, her green card status was not certain. She might be allowed to keep her job and stay in the US while the application process is ongoing, but not even that is certain. US Immigration now tells the firm’s attorneys that it might be 2011 until the Blanche gets a green card, but only if they can reduce their tremendous application backlog.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other CEO’s of American high-tech businesses have complained vehemently that US Immigration is impeding the flow of educated, high-skilled immigrants into the country. Immigration delays of the US Government have convinced some of the world’s best minds to settle in Europe, Australia, or Canada, depriving our country of scientists, doctors, engineers, and IT professionals who had originally selected the United States as their first choice for a new home. The human capital deficits caused by our inefficient and incompetent immigration system will have negative repercussions in the United States for years to come.
Ironically, the United States needs both Juan and Blanche. I’m not upset with the idea that the government is trying to give the Juan’s of the world a leg up in earning their way toward legal citizenship, especially if the US can control its borders in the future. However, it really bothers me that a government who will clear a path for a grape picker can’t likewise expedite the long-standing application of a computer programmer-business analyst like Blanche. Before we open the door to twelve million undocumented illegal aliens, US immigration should declare an “accelerated review and issuance” of all pending green card applications for highly educated and skilled workers. For gosh sakes, can’t we get Blanche through the doors ahead of Juan?