Monday, November 1, 2010

Completely OT: an immigration and tourist visa proposal

Okay, I'm taking a risk here, especially after the whole "I think Sarah Palin is a lousy speaker" debacle at ICSC.  And I know this has almost nothing to do with commercial real estate. But what the heck.

I am a firm believer in common sense when it comes to immigration.  As the husband of a legal immigrant, I believe in open borders -- to an extent.  If someone, for instance, is most likely going to make a significant contribution to our country, why not let that person in? Take my wife, for instance.  She jumped through years and years of hoops to obtain a green card and her "blue passport" (meaning US citizenship).  Her marrying me had nothing to do with it.  And she is a most productive member of society, treating our children and paying oodles and gobs of taxes to boot.  I want the best and brightest of the world -- doctors, engineers, software pros, etc. -- to come here to the maximum extent possible.  We have some programs available to encourage this, and I want more.

What has stuck in my mind for the last decade or so is our visa policy in some cases.  I am seeing my family driven crazy by i.  Take my highly-educated niece, for example.  When her father was dying, our government refused her a visa on the grounds that she was a "flight risk" and not likely to return home because her application to join her family in the US was still pending. Because we did not to do anything illegal or risk her application, she never got to see her father again.  She subsequently obtained her green card (after an eleven year wait) and promptly found a high-paying job as a software consultant.

My nephew's wife is going through a similar problem: her sister and father cannot visit her here because of "insufficient ties to the home country."  She is literally in years because she'd like them to see the wonderful life she is building here with my family. 

Let me say it isn't all bad.  My mother-in-law, brother and law and his family have been back and forth several times now, with of course absolutely no flight risk.  Many thanks to the consular officials who saw the honesty in them.  My mother-in-law's tourist visa is up for renewal next year. I cannot imagine her being denied given her record of traveling back and forth, although if it is we will immediately file a petition for permanent residency.

Don't get me wrong.  I absolutely see the other side of the coin.  We don't want people overstaying their welcome as tourists and potentially becoming liabilities on our government.  I totally get that and support it.  But isn't there a solution? 

My middle of the night idea, which for all I know exists or has been proposed already, is to have some method of sponsorship for someone who wants to be a tourist but is perceived in the government's opinion to be less likely to go home.  In other words, if I want relative X to visit, I will personally guarantee his return to the home country, and put up a significant deposit or bond (be it a lump sum of x% of net worth) and be required to pay for all enforcement and deportation costs if that return does not happen.  It should be a draconian amount, in my opinion -- one that no one will want to pay, and perhaps on a sliding scale based on income.  That way no one will sponsor someone that isn't really, really, going back.  Perhaps the privilege should only be available to citizens, or to green card holders with the possible penalty of losing your permanent residency.  I don't know.

All this may be impractical or pie-in-the-sky.  But darn it, I have family members who want to visit this country and go home again, and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is to guarantee it.  There is nothing legal we would not have done to let our niece see her father before he died (and no, we did not have sufficient time or clout to push a Private Member's Bill through Congress, which a friend of mine actually did receive some years ago).  Is there another way?

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