American Immigration Policy: Bordering on the Absurd

By Robin Koerner, Publisher of  
March 30, 2006

A U.S. Border Patrol Agent Secures a Group of
Illegal Immigrants in the Otay Mesa Mountain
Range, Just East of San Diego, Last October.

RealVideo[LATEST NEWS PHOTOS: Immigration].

I am a grateful guest in a great country.

That is why I have never complained about what I've had to go through to be allowed to reside in the United States, conduct business here, invest in this country, and contribute to the Treasury and the evolving, vibrant idea of America.

But as I watch the debate about the current immigration bill, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The absurdity of the contradictions that are being suggested would be unimaginable if they weren't, well, about American immigration policy.

Immigration policy is an aspect of America that alien residents often know a lot more about than American citizens. I'm moved to write this article in the hope of showing how the current debate, which by default is largely about illegal Latino immigrants, totally misses the fundamental contradictions in U.S. immigration policy, and may, if it results in "comprehensive immigration reform" that is in fact anything but "comprehensive," deepen those contradictions.

First, you need to know something about me. I have three degrees from the University of Cambridge, a European Ivy League institution. They cover the physical sciences and liberal arts. I have no criminal record.  I have a background in business strategy and am a small-time but successful investor. Accordingly, I was able to put just shy of $100,000 in a company bank account in the U.S. before I applied to set up a business here. I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours putting together the application for the visa (with the help of professional consultants). The paperwork was extensive – and that is proverbial British understatement.

I was therefore delighted and relieved to receive my visa (L1A, Executive Manager's visa) just over a year ago. Despite the above credentials, I was given (as is typical) only a one-year visa to start and maintain a business. I could only even be considered for such a visa because I served as the executive manager of an affiliate company with the same ownership structure as the new company in America for three years before I came to the U.S. (Take a moment to consider just how restrictive that condition is.)  Any readers who are businesspersons may also be wondering how an immigration officer can assess the viability of a start-up business in just a year from authorizing its principal director to start work.  Right now, as those authorities ponder the renewal of my visa, I wonder the same thing.

Senators Edward Kennedy and
John McCain Have Co-Sponsored
One of a Number of Recent
Immigration Reform Proposals.


While I am allowed to conduct business, this visa does not allow me to work as an employee of an American company should I want to do some part-time work to help support myself or my new business.

Now, the following may surprise you: to obtain this one-year visa to set up a business and bring money into America, I had to renounce any intention to seek citizenship.

Despite the emotional resilience required to build a life without knowing if I'll have to leave the country in a year, I've had a wonderful and productive time in the United States. I have successfully conducted my small property business, investing in a great project to build high-quality homes for Americans who've never owned one. I have contributed significantly to the cultural, political and intellectual fabric of this nation through co-founding and managing, which has led to my being interviewed extensively by the American media.

All the while, to fulfill the conditions of my visa, I've had to administer my business in such a way that I have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the Treasury (in taxes and fees) that an American who was conducting identical business would not have to pay.

I don't resent one cent, and I never stop being thankful for this wonderful privilege to take my shot at the American Dream.

So you might expect that I just need to fill in a few forms to get my visa renewed for a few more years to that I can nurture my business and projects to self-sufficiency, and contribute more to the United States. You'd be wrong. Two months ago, I submitted my application to renew my visa: it was just short of 700 pages long (which, for fun, is roughly one page for every ten Mexicans that come across the border each day), including copies of documents that capture every detail of what I've been doing in my first short year here.

The authorities are considering that application. I am waiting for their response.

Why is all this important?

President Bush is currently considering allowing illegal immigrants to "not jump the line" but at least "get to the back of the line" to citizenship – for just $3000.

I expect you see why I am still trying to get over the shock …

There is no line to citizenship that I, an educated Brit, can even get to the back of ... I've already spent my $10,000s. I've already put in my thousands of pages of paper work. I've already invested greatly in your economy. I am using my education directly to benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans who are using the service I provide (for free, by the way), and yet American law requires me to state an intent not to stay permanently. May I humbly ask this country for at least the same rights as an illegal Latino?  Now, I'm guessing the word "Mexican" isn't going to appear anywhere in the legislation, so should I just let my visa expire; go quiet for a while; become an illegal British immigrant, and then get all the rights for which I've been spending so much time and money, as well as some rights that I cannot have as an alien executive manager, by registering as a guest worker? If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny.

So watch out for your next immigration crisis, America. You will see a new phenomenon: legal alien residents like me will be trying to find ways to become illegal immigrants just so we can join the same line to citizenship that is denied to us as legal productive alien residents … And it will be the best $3000 we've ever spent – a small fraction of what it's already cost me to conduct business here for just a year. I wonder if I'll have to learn Spanish to fill in the forms?

Once the word is out that America has created a line to citizenship for a cool 3000 bucks, it won't just be America's southern border that you'll need to worry about. You'll have tens of millions of Europeans and Asians flooding in (on airplanes, of course) and looking forward to the expiration of their tourist visas to join the new line as illegal immigrant guest workers, waiting for citizenship.  Then watch out: the Europeans, at least, will be white, so no one will notice when they take the good jobs that upstanding Americans do want to do.

God bless America. Immigration is an important issue that demands, if you'll forgive a British phrase, "joined-up" thinking. America owes it to itself.