In today’s 24/7, Twenty-First Century world, with on-demand services often only mouse clicks away, our nation’s employment-based immigration laws are reverting to Puritan times. How so? Remember the infamous Blue Laws of the colonial era, when government officials decreed that the economy must shut down every Sunday, the Sabbath, for a day of rest. Fast forward now to 2005, and let’s look at America’s modern-day immigration blue laws, which take the “business-must-rest” concept to an absurdly blue (melancholic) low point.
As the State Department has announced , the waiting time for virtually all categories of employment-based immigrant visas (the coveted “Green Card”) will “retrogress” (move back in time) on October 1. In practical effect, this means that individuals who have already patiently waited for years in the legal-immigration queue – especially those born in China, India, the Philippines and Mexico – must wait much, much longer still.
These patient foreign citizens (whose employers have already proven to the satisfaction of the U.S. Department of Labor that there are no American workers available to fill needed jobs) may be required to wait up to 15 years more before attaining U.S. green cards. The potential for a decade-plus Green Card blackout also means that the workers’ spouses and children must also wait just as long before they are eligible to receive employment permission and work-authorized social security numbers. As a result, the family must rely on a single income, and the career aspirations of family members must be put on (blue?) ice. Meantime, as well, the foreign workers and their family members better be prepared for multiple trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles, since driver’s licenses are usually limited in time to the period of nonimmigrant status (which often is only available in annual increments).
Not to single out foreign workers and their families, the immigration blue laws are just as unfriendly to American businesses. The greencard blackout requires U.S. employers of sponsored foreign workers to repeatedly extend their employees’ work visa status, and suffer interruptions of business projects and absenteeism on the job (since the workers must travel recurrently to a U.S. consular post overseas to obtain renewals of their visa stamps).
There are even more blue notes and perpetual blue days in the offing. The supply of H-1B visas for professional workers dropped from 195,000 this last fiscal year to a meager 58,000 visas in FY 2005 and will remain at this paltry level in future years. Not surprisingly, the entire national supply of H-1B visas for computer professionals, architects, scientists, researchers, consultants, fashion models and other workers in “specialty occupations” who hold a bachelor’s degree or a foreign graduate degree ran out on August 10 – two months before the start of the new fiscal year. As a result, the immigration blue days will continue for these H-1B workers and their U.S. employers for at least the next 14 months.
What should be done? We should all sing the blues to Congress and the White House, and even hop a ride on Jet Blue, and let them know that our country’s weakening position in the global economy cannot afford these costly immigration blue laws.
As the editorialists at the Miami Herald, have trumpeted, the situation is urgent. We must make sure that our government officials act in our nation’s economic self interest, and instead of blue laws, give the green light to enlightened, employment-based immigration reform.