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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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America’s Back Asswards Immigration Policy, Exhibit A

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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My general impression of America’s current immigration policy is that it’s somewhere between xenophobic sadism and Kafkaesque incompetence. Both of these instincts were confirmed by this WSJ article – A Disabled Son Imperils Family’s Immigration Hope ($), which follows the path of Zandro Souza, an immigrant from Brazil who went from dishwasher to upscale chef on Martha’s Vineyard. Appying for permanent residency, immigration officials apparently told that they would readily approve Souza and his wife, but were worried that their son might become a “public charge” in the event something should happen to them.

The Souzas’ 11-year-old son, Igor, is blind and developmentally delayed. His condition requires countless doctor visits, frequent runs to the emergency room and more than $1,000 a month in medication. Mr. Souza says he has paid almost all of Igor’s medical bills — about $20,000 annually — out of pocket, without insurance or help from government programs. He feared accepting aid would jeopardize his family’s attempt to gain permanent U.S. residency.

According to Mr. Souza, the immigration official told him that if Mr. Souza and his wife died, their son could become a “public charge.” Although the family tried to prove that Igor would be cared for if his parents passed away, the U.S. government earlier this year denied green cards to the couple and their son and placed them in deportation proceedings.

The moral argument is pretty obvious, in that it’s obviously reprehensible to all but the most senile bigot. However, this case also illustrates the economic argument for not taking such a short-sighted view of immigration. Richard Florida’s The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent lays it out in detail, building on his earlier book Rise of the Creative Class. Listen to Florida discuss his work at the 2004 PopTech Conference. Though we tend to think of immigrants as the ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ some are better thought of as free agents. These are immigrants who on net are worth more to the society they join that what they cost, sometimes quite a bit more. Consider the potential impact of Albert Einstein staying in Austria through WWII (not to mention Oppenheimer, Fermi, Szilárd, Teller, and Wigner; see Manhattan Project). The notion of the American Dream is built on the concept that the United States is the place to go for immigrants with initiative and ambition. Or at least it was.

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Category: immigration law


One Response

  1. chasid says:

    Who’s doing the best work to improve US immigration policy (opinion making or policy making)? Where’s the most interesting place to look?