Lauren Gray’s Near Miss
Lauren Gray arrived in the United States with her parents when she was four years old. The Grays are British citizens but have been here legally since 1994. Lauren was able to remain in the U.S. due to residency visas her parents had in which she was considered a dependent of theirs. Yesterday was her 21st birthday and since she had not gotten a residency visa, she would have to return to Great Britain and wait a year or more before she could get a visa to return. Thanks to a recommendation of Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill Lauren found out yesterday that she does not have to leave and can remain in the United States.
Lauren and her family are productive people and model examples of immigrants who truly want to live and work in the United States. The Grays own a motor lodge and restaurant in Trenton, Missouri while Lauren has gone to school to where she has earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts and Dance from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Despite their accomplishments, Lauren’s grandparents who have been naturalized citizens since 2003 and applied for green cards for Lauren and her parents, these factors were not enough to prevent Lauren from almost being deported.
If nothing had been done, Lauren would have had to wait a year or more before her name came up in the green card lottery in order for her to return to the U.S. Despite President Obama’s recent ordered reprieve of the children of illegal immigrants who have been here in the U.S. since birth or when they were little, unfortunately the President’s order does not apply to people such as Lauren Gray.
Lauren Gray’s example demonstrates how convoluted and bureaucratic the United States immigration system is. The Reason Foundation has excellent flow charts that demonstrate the many hurdles immigrants must go through in order to get work papers. In light of Lauren Gray’s near deportation and with the information contained in this study, examples like Lauren’s are not surprising. Because of the many layers of bureaucracy, fees and numerous requirements needed for people to get visas it creates a huge backlog for immigration officials, discourages many who come here to the U.S. legally, and makes it prohibitively expensive for companies to hire immigrants for jobs. Because of the onerous rules to obtain them, in 2009 many immigrants decided not to apply for work visas which resulted in thousands left unissued.
With the above facts in mind and due to the bad economy, it makes sense to allow more immigrants to come here to work and live. I favor open immigration and think migration to the United States and the pursuit of work should not be a crime. At the same time I understand the flip side of open borders too. There are those who have criminal or terrorist backgrounds including some who would carry contagious diseases.
In the case of wrongdoers or the seriously ill applying to enter the U.S. I have no problem with Homeland Security screening them out as long as necessary (though I think it should be minimal). Applicants who are determined to be a threat to the health and safety of U.S. citizens or who apply for welfare benefits upon obtaining a permit and do not find work within a certain period of time should be deported. Immigrants who are not threats and are able to find work or are sponsored for jobs should quickly be issued work visas or given reprieves if they are temporarily unemployed. The best policy would be to lift or (better yet) repeal the cap on the H1-B work licenses so it makes it easier for employers to obtain visas for people they want to hire to work.
I tacitly support limits (if not outright bans) on migration to the United States from countries listed by the State Department whose governments support or have terrorist activity along with patrolling the borders the U.S. has with Canada and Mexico since doing so can deter wrong doers from trying to sneak in. I think the best long term solution to prevent terrorists from coming here would be to harshly deal with countries that support terrorism (like Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia). Conducting regime changes on Islamic states or enacting tough sanctions will drain the resources and will of terrorist groups and Islamist regimes making it easier for people who legitmiately want to come here and work or escape political or religious persecution. As long as their situation is truly determined to be one of escaping political or religious persecution and they pose no threat to the U.S. an immigrant should be able to apply for asylum coupled with a temporary permit allowing them to work.
The uniqueness of the United States is that it recognizes the individual as central to the its greatness and for mankind to flourish. It not only has a government erected to protect individual rights but also has a rich, great history of becoming prosperous due to the hard work and dedication of many immigrants who have come here in the past and even today. There can be a balance struck that allows the U.S. government to do its job by properly protecting its citizens while allowing the private sector to flourish. If major changes are not enacted to change U.S. immigration policy by (at the very least) making it easier for immigrants to come here legally, unfortunately, there will be more Lauren Grays down the line who may not be as lucky.