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The merits of an open mind on immigration


As part of my effort to nourish my political soul this summer, I'm diving deep into immigration, both legal and otherwise. Thanks to those of you who've sent your thoughts and showered me with links to explore.

One of these led me to a piece in Time magazine about a new "merit-based" immigration bill - the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE - that would screen visa applicants using a point system. The article summarized a quiz that favors people between the ages of 26 and 30 with a doctoral degree, high English proficiency and a job offer with a hefty salary. Applicants with the highest number of points would go the front of the visa line.

I took the quiz. And if I hadn't been lucky enough to have been born in the great U.S. state of Colorado, I wouldn't be able to get here now.

Answers in the test are assigned point values, and successful applicants need at least 30 points. I started out badly - zero points for age. I do have a graduate degree, but not in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), and I had to select U.S. bachelor's degree for only six points. I consider myself fluent in English so I scored 12 points there, but zero points for salary under $80,000.

I haven't won a Nobel prize (yet) or any other major international award. I haven't won any Olympic medals. And I don't plan on investing more than $1.8 million foreign currency for a new commercial enterprise in the U.S.

I scored 18 points total and I don't qualify to apply for a visa to the U.S.

Digesting this sobering fact also raised some questions. If such moves are designed to protect strong American employment, why do only people who will take away high-paying jobs get to come here? I've read that there is a shortage of engineers and science professionals, so to me, it seems more logical to increase STEM education access for our own young women and men.

Another question I have is about conflicting statements surrounding low-skill, low-wage workers who come here, particularly for hotels and resorts, as well as agriculture. Some states such as California and South Carolina rely on migrant farm workers - as do parts of Colorado - yet these people are specifically excluded in certain immigration exemptions. This just doesn't make sense to me, unless it's a punitive measure to punish states like California for their social policies.

If you have any research, thoughts or considerations, please send them my way.

And then there are the refugees and asylum seekers. Every time I step into a nice, hot shower or crawl into my nice, cool bed in my nice, safe home, I try to imagine living instead in a tent on the dirt in the rain, or in a violence-ravaged village, fearing for my life and the lives of my family. But, of course, I can't.

I wish I knew of - or could contribute to - a solution.

If you're interested in nourishing your own political soul this way, look up David Leonhardt with the New York Times - and let me know how it goes.

Andrea Doray is a writer who is grateful every day that she is already here. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.


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