Immigration is a dichotomy in a way in America right now. With 2012 looking like a continuation of poor economic and employment figures, whether the main stream media or politicians spin it away or not, and 2012 being a major election year, the ironies seem endless sometimes.
Promises were made in the 2008 campaign for more secure borders and comprehensive immigration reform. Nothing meaningful has really been done in Washington to keep these promises. The same promises are now being made to special interest voting blocks in the 2012 campaigning.
Who is coming to the United States and why? Just as telling, who is leaving the United States and why?
Against this backdrop of immigration and economic politicizing, reports are surfacing reflecting many illegal immigrants are self-deporting back to their home countries due to the poor employment realities with the U.S. economic climate. An April 23 Washington Post headline says it all, “For first time since Depression, more Mexicans leave U.S. than enter.”
Most notable is Pew Hispanic centre (PHC) estimates as many as are choosing to take their American born children with them – up to 100,000 U.S. citizens by birth. PHC also reports, “Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less.”
While some immigrants are leaving, others are requesting visas to work in the U.S. It seems companies are eager to bring in engineers and computer professionals. Is this strictly economics?
Do companies only want foreign labour, because they will work for less than more experienced U.S. professionals in the same jobs? Is this good for unemployed or underemployed U.S. citizen professionals at a time of high unemployment?
Dallas, Texas based Virginia Prodan is an immigration attorney with her own extraordinary immigrant experience. She summarizes, “In Romania, after I accepted Christ, as an attorney I defended churches and individuals against the country’s religious and human rights persecution during the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.”
“Many of my human rights and religious cases were broadcast on Radio Voice of America, Free Europe and published in Christian Science Monitor. My work was featured in the United Nation reports and the U.S. Department of State reports on violations of human rights during the regime.”
“Because my work was considered ‘dissident activity’, the Romanian Secret Police, Securitate, used every possible means of intimidation, house arrest, interrogating me, searching my house and office daily, even threatening to kill me or my family.”
She was exiled from Romania. Her passion for working on religious liberty cases brought her to the U. S. in November, 1988. She became a U.S. citizen in February, 1994.
Virginia Prodan shares her immigrant insight and immigration law expertise.
BKH: What type of Visas are most sought to come to the U.S.?
VP: The top three are:
- H-1B Visas for work possibilities for foreign professionals in the U.S.
However, due to economic difficulties of the U.S. economy in the last years, as reflected in the latest figures released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the fiscal 2010-2011, out of the 65,000 mandated H-1B visa slots, for the first time about 11,000 remains unused for qualified applicants .
- B-1 Visitor Visa to visit friends and relatives in the U.S., or to simply visit the U.S.
- F-1 Visas to study in US.
BKH: From which countries are most Visa requests?
VP: H-1B Visas requested from India. According to the fiscal year 2010-2011 figures released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the most sought after H-1B visas were by Indian professionals for working in the U.S.
BKH: So a work Visa is the top draw. What are the general age, gender, religion, and occupation of those requesting Visas?
VP: Both genders as well as various religions are requesting Visas. The age range is mainly from 24 years or college age to 56 or older. The main occupations are in the computer area/industry, nurses, and engineers.
BKH: What type of Asylum is generally being sought and from which countries?
VP: By definition Asylum is a protection extended by US government to a foreign national to remain in the U.S. under legal status, because the foreign national has suffered past persecution in his home country.
Also, Asylum requests are a result if the foreign national has a well founded fear of future persecution in his home country, and such persecution is based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Therefore, the request consideration from a particular country will be according to the particular/present situation in that country or geographic region at that specific time.
BKH: What is a Diversity Visa?
VP: The program known as the Diversity Visa Lottery, or the Green Card Lottery, is mandated by the U.S. Congress and administered by the Department of State. Every year, the U.S. Government makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas to citizens of countries that have a low rate of immigration to the United States.
BKH: Why does the U.S. offer these?
VP: The U.S. offers the Diversity Visas out of fairness. Any person living in one of these under-represented countries, who is interested in emigrating to the U.S. by way of the DV program can or may apply for a visa in U.S.
BKH: What is the average length of time to receive a Visa to the U.S.?
VP: The average length of time depends on the type of Visa, and it can be from 6 months to 3 years or more. Sometimes becoming a U.S. resident or U.S. citizen status can seem like forever for many.
BKH: Does the U.S. give preferential treatment for any specific reason requests and/or from any particular countries?
VP: No, I don’t think so.
BKH: What are the main reasons someone might be turned down for a Visa?
VP: There are 10 reasons applications may be turned down and a Visa denied. They are in terms of percentage, the ranking goes like this from the most difficult to overcome to the easiest:
1. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations – 100% denial
2. Drug abuser or addict – 100%
3. labour certification – 97%
4. Smugglers – 92%
5. Ordered removed upon arrival – 84%
6. Crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) – 83%
7. Misrepresentation – 79%
8. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar) – 46%
9. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations – 34.1%
10. Public charge – 24%
BKH: What is the percentage of Visa requests that are successful versus those that are not?
VP: In my immigration law practice I learned that if my client qualifies for the type of Visas I help them to apply for, generally we are 100% successful.
BKH: What are the strengths of the U.S. immigration policies?
VP: I believe the strengths are:
- U.S. is a country of immigrants.
- U.S. works on reuniting families in US.
- U.S. still offers legal protection for individuals – human and religious persecutions.
- U.S. gives foreigners who serve in the military a way to become U.S. citizens.
- U.S. extends to foreign (professionals) nationals a possibility to work in the U.S. and be part of our economy, etc.
BKH: What are the weaknesses of the U.S. immigration policies?
VP: I believe the weaknesses are:
- The presence of undocumented foreign nationals here with criminal records – National Security risk too.
- We are not successful stopping illegal immigration at Southern border in particular or other areas.
- Still lots of work needs to be done on protecting US workers from undue competition from illegal immigrants.
BKH: Do you believe the distinction between legal and illegal immigration should be maintained?
VP: Yes. America was built on lawfulness, and it must remain the country that encourages its citizens and foreigners to respect the law of the land. If we teach our kids and others around us to respect the laws, foreigners will relate and respect our laws also.
The legal immigrants respect the law. Many times during the immigration process they have to attend interviews, provide very personal information and documents, take tests, fill out forms, pay fees, and wait in line for the U.S. government approval. Legal immigrants must wait for the legal next steps to follow in the immigration process.
As many legal immigrants become U.S. residents or U.S. citizens ,they frequently want to bring their families back in their native country to the U.S. But many times those relatives have to wait for years outside of the U.S. for U.S. government approval to come to the U.S. Starting at a point of respecting U.S. laws, those former foreigners, now U.S. residents or U.S. citizens, comply with the law.
Those immigrants that entered legally complying with U.S. immigration law are a great example to those illegal immigrants avoiding or violating the law. In fact, the legal immigrants are the ones complaining the most about the illegal immigrants in U.S.
Also, it is not good for illegal immigrants to be here, for many times they are exposed to abuses from their own communities or others, discrimination , or even attracted to criminal activities, prostitution, drugs, etc on their way to finding a job or surviving here.
BKH: What would you like policy makers in Washington D.C. to understand better?
VP: The policy makers in Washington, DC will need to cooperate and work harder on immigration reform legislation that accomplishes at least three critical goals.
- Comprehensive immigration reform – Improves the legal immigration system, so that it functions more efficiently, answers more accurately to labour market needs, and boosts U.S. competitiveness.
- State and local enforcement – Rebuilds the reliability of immigration laws through an enforcement regime that strongly discourages employers and employees from operating outside that legal system, fortifies America’s borders, and charges significant penalties against those who violate the rules.
- Earned legalization – Advances a fair, humane, and well thought out way to allow many of the twelve million migrants currently living illegally in the U. S. to acquire the right to remain legally.
BKH: How did you feel when you immigrated to the U.S. in 1988?
VP: After years working as an attorney of defending human and religious rights in Romania, which included daily arrest, house arrest , being forced to leave was a difficult but also an exciting event for me. After all coming to America felt like I was exiled to Freedom.
Soon after I arrived in the U. S., I learned that when I was arrested, under house arrest in Romania, President Ronald Regan and his cabinet worked very hard and daily in their negotiation with a Dictator to rescue me , a political dissident. I am grateful to President Regan and America.
BKH: How did you feel when you became a U.S. citizen in 1994?
VP: Becoming a U.S. citizen was one of my special, precious, memorable, and treasured days in my life.
The U.S. government gave me the unique privilege of having a private Citizenship Ceremony at Southern Methodist University (SMU) were I was a Law School student. The local newspaper and TV stations – Dallas Morning News and WFAA TV – honored me with their presence and announcements. Therefore, many people had the opportunity to participate and celebrate with me and honour America – the home of immigrants.
Being a US citizen was a great privilege but a big responsibility too – for me to continue to fight and preserve freedom for all.
BKH: What do those born in America most take for granted about our country?
VP: I think they take for granted all of the possibilities we have to be involved and to make the changes we are looking for in America and around the world. I believe in encouraging people by showing your own example, by being the change you are looking for. So, here is my example.
While at Southern Methodist University (SMU) Law School , I served as a congresswoman for the law school and president of the LL.M. International Society. I was involved in numerous legal and honour societies. During Law School, I interned at the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C. and at the U.S. Federal District Court Northern District of Texas for Judge Sidney Fitzwater.
After graduation, I worked as an attorney with Liberty Legal Institute in Dallas, and I am an Allied Attorney with the Alliance defence Fund.
I founded my own law firm, Virginia Prodan Law Firm in 2005, working on immigration law cases, helping people to legally immigrate to the U.S. and become successful here.
I am involved in the 2012 election, as a precinct chair person. I am a motivational speaker on Success in America, Truth and Freedom and fighting for freedom for all helping many organisations and charities in my area, the U.S., or around the world. We all can be involved and make a difference.
BKH: What would you tell those that complain about Americans and America?
VP: America is the best country in the world. Not a perfect country but the best one. Take it from me.,
I came to this country empty handed and not knowing a world in English. I knew five other languages but no English. I learned English and graduated from SMU in Dallas, Texas in the top percentage of my class with two degrees : a J.D. degree and L.L.M. degree.
In addition to having my own immigration law firm and being a motivational speaker, I am a proud single mother of two girls and a son. Anca graduated from SMU and is a counselor in Sherman, Texas. Andreea graduated from Harvard Law School and is an attorney in California. Emanuel graduated from the Air Force Academy and is a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, pilot program.
Only in America can an immigrant like me and my children accomplish the American Dream. For me that is the freedom to chose a good education, raise responsible kids, and to be free to make a daily contribution to the American society and the world.
My kids and I are living proof America is a great and special country that offers people an opportunity to work hard and accomplish their dreams.
BKH: Thank you Virginia.
For millions, America is still held up high as the land of opportunity and dream fulfillment possibility despite its current economic difficulties. According to an April 20, 2012 Gallup survey, “150 Million Adults Worldwide Would Migrate to the U.S.” with “Potential migrants most likely to be Chinese, Nigerian, and Indian.”
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