For once, I, Luke Stibbs, agree with President Obama.
America’s immigration system is broken. I come at this from a unique angle because, as many of you know, I am Canadian. I’m proud of my country, and I have every right to be. I think Canada is the second-best country in the world. That being said, I want to join the country I consider the best in the world. I want to become an American. Specifically, I want to be a Texan.
I don’t want dual citizenship. I don’t want anything special. I want to move to Texas and will gladly forfeit my Canadian citizenship in order to get American citizenship.
Did you know that there is no easy way to do that?
Did you know that even to get a temporary visa to work, I need an employer to pay a fee, vouch for me, and then wait to see if the U.S. Government will allow me to come work for them?
If I went for a temporary work visa, it costs a potential employer $400-$900 and an arbitrary amount of time to find out if they are even allowed to hire me.
This regulation of the free market disincentivizes any employer from attempting to hire me. They have to pay a fee, they aren’t even assured that I’ll be approved, and there is no set timetable. It’s bureaucratic hurdle after bureaucratic hurdle just to see if I’m going to be allowed in to the country.
I am lucky. I have good friends in the U.S., I have great relationships with companies and business owners in the U.S., and I have volunteer experience with an amazing organization from Texas. Given enough time, I should eventually be able to find someone who is willing to take a chance, pay the government their fee, and be willing to wait for me.
But until someone goes out on a limb for me, I can’t legally work in the U.S. at all. This is why the immigration system is broken.
I am a young, hard-working, single man. I don’t believe in going on government assistance. Although I am a would-be writer and political journalist, I’ve worked jobs in many fields, from fry cook to manual labour to event planning, graphic design, or home appliance sales. I could not be any less of a strain on the system. And yet, the only visa that truly gives me the freedom to move to the United States and pursue happiness is a lottery based visa.
The American immigration system is missing a key component. So I invented one. It’s what I call the Aspirational Visa.
An Aspirational Visa would last a short period — say…3 months. This visa would not be tied to a specific job, but it would simply allow an aspiring immigrant the ability to move temporarily to the United States, and attempt to find a job. Now, I understand that we can’t just allow every person who wants into the U.S. in; it would overwhelm the system, so let’s put up some challenges. Say the U.S. Government charged $2,000 for this 3-month Aspirational Visa, and held another $2,000 in reserve. The initial payment more than covers the cost of a background check, and overstaying on an Aspirational Visa results in an immediate deportation and a forfeiture of the second payment. Let’s also add that anyone, while on an Aspirational Visa, is ineligible for the social safety net. If you find a job and are granted a work visa, your second payment is returned to you. If you don’t find a job and return to your home country, your second payment is returned to you. If you wanted to add more requirements, like some sort of language requirement, citizenship requirement, or a university degree, this idea is very easily shaped, but I think the concept itself is solid and needs to be further explored.
I know I’d be willing to spend the time and effort working in Canada to save up the necessary seed money. I don’t want to live off of the work of others, I just want to become an American. There needs to be a path to citizenship that doesn’t involve breaking the law and waiting for amnesty.
Without real immigration reform, I may get in. I may not. Although university has made me poor, I am not yet tired. I am an individual; but I still yearn to be free. Allow me the opportunity to prove myself worthy of being called an American, and I will do my best to live up to the name.
Luke Stibbs | University of the Fraser Valley (BC) | @LukeStibbs