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Who Should Be Eligible for a Visa to the USA?

12 July 2009 11 Comments
Opportunity in the USA

Opportunity in the USA

Recently, a student at the CUNY School of Professional Studies suggested that the numbers of visas available to foreigners should be based on the historic productivity and contribution to the USA by immigrants of the individual’s nation. He proposed that a greater number of visas should be allocated to countries that have produced immigrants who have significantly contributed more to the progress of this country.  As examples, he noted the contribution of Mexican immigrants to agriculture, Philippine immigrants to nursing and health care, and Indian immigrants to engineering and telecommunications.  He posited that it is not fair that countries that have not produced a significant number of immigrants who have helped shape America should have the same number of visa available as the rest of the world.  He proposed that countries ought to be extended visas based on a weighted evaluation of how immigrants from those countries have contributed to the greatness of the USA. I believe that our nation needs to do more and find more ways to honor productive immigrants, and even specific nations contributing productive immigrants.  Yet I bristle at the thought of tying numbers of allowable immigrants to the historic productivity/contribution of immigrants from the nation from which they come. Here is why: For most potential immigrants, legal immigrant status equals “opportunity.”  If people were provided access to “opportunities” based on the historic achievements and contributions of others with their own cultural heritage, in years past black Americans would have had less access to opportunity than white Americans, despite the fact that the apparent (underscore apparent!) lesser contributions were the result of historic socioeconomic factors- that with “time and opportunity” could and would be overcome.  Pre-existing economic factors influence capacity for success, as well as ability to “publicize” contributions and productivity, making them apparent.  Given opportunity, it is individuals who are in a position to overcome economic obstacles to become productive contributors to society.  The ultimate achievements as a result of the opportunity stem from the individual’s perseverance, not the individual’s national origin.   With opportunity and time, immigrants from the “apparent least contributing” nations may prove themselves to cure cancer and even excel in an area of science yet unknown.

Finally, the determination of value of contribution or productivity of the cumulative immigrants of a nation is impossible. I submit that the non-English speaking grandmother who has immigrated to the USA (perhaps from a nation that is viewed as less contributing than others), who spends her days cooking and tending to the family in a traditional family role, contributes just as much to our society by “role modeling” positive family values as the rocket scientist or multi-chain restauranteur from “highly contributing immigrant nations.”

The beauty and strength of the USA is in its diversity and its commitment to equal opportunity.  For these reasons, I do not think access to opportunity should ever be moderated based on past performance of individuals in a like-economic circumstance (which is what extending opportunity to immigrants based on their national performance would be tantamount to). That said, I absolutely think we need to do much more to honor the immigrants and nationalities of the immigrants who have been and continue to be at the core of our success as a nation.  Awards, a new class of small business loans, more set-aside federal business subcontracts, a special class of homeowner loans, a specific holiday- yes!  Maybe even credits to expedite US citizenry once a Legal Permanent Resident. But overall limits to access to opportunity in the USA based on historic contribution by nationality: I can’t agree.


  • derekpm said:

    Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article.

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  • Bridgess said:


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  • Дэвид said:

    “утро началось с замечательной статьи, спасибо!”