By Cristina Perez, Founding Partner
Over the years that I have worked as an immigration attorney, I’ve met some extraordinary people. From athletes, to actresses, to venture capitalists; from the man who helped reinvent journalism for the digital age, to the startup founder who thanked me with tears in his eyes for a success he couldn’t have reached without a green card - these motivated, brilliant people continue to inspire me.
You can imagine how infuriating it is, then, to hear some of the pernicious myths surrounding immigration in America. And yet, I understand where they come from. We fear immigration, because we do not fully understand how it works. How familiar are you with the system? Here are some of the myths I most frequently encounter:
1: Most immigrants are uneducated.
False! This is a huge misconception that we have all heard, yet it has very little basis in reality. The truth is that it is so difficult to make your way into America as a working citizen, that the people who are able to run the immigration gauntlet, are often higher educated and more experienced than the average American.
In applying for a green card or visa, having more unique professional skills or a specialized education will help you stand out. These skills could help your application be viewed as a little bit stronger, raising the likelihood that your application will be accepted sooner.
2: It’s easy to gain lawful status via a green card or visa.
The process of coming into the United States can be quite demoralizing: a person can find that, after following the letter of the law, working with every agency and department according to instructions, properly applying for a green card, even doing extra work to make sure he or she is uniquely qualified… there may still be a very long wait.
The backlogs are tremendous, and adjudication of petitions can slow the process down further. In particular, this is stressful for families hoping to be reunited; but it also affects companies hoping to bring their key employees to work in a United States branch.
3: People who crossed the border illegally should “just get a green card.”
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no real path to lawful citizenship for individuals who don’t already have lawful status in the United States. Even for those who may have entered the country decades ago, and have otherwise been model citizens, there are really very few if any options available.
These people include those who came into America as children, or professionals who let their status lapse - among many others. It’s often portrayed as a lack of a desire to become integrated, which is a giant misconception. It doesn’t really matter if they want to have lawful status - the system is so complicated that they have very little choice.
4: Immigration hurts the American economy.
This is one of the biggest untruths of all, and it is tremendously damaging to our perception of immigrants. A large part of our labor force is made up of people who were born in another country. They contribute as workers, taxpayers, consumers, entrepreneurs - whether they’re legal or not, they consistently make enormous contributions to the economy.
Quite frequently, immigrants have more trouble finding employment due to a negative perception of foreigners. So instead, they start their own businesses - which then create jobs and cash flow! Those businesses also pay taxes, as do the individuals running them. In many cases, immigrants pay taxes, without receiving the benefits a native-born American would.
5: You don’t know any immigrants.
We are a nation of immigrants, but we tend to forget it in our day-to-day lives. Without a doubt, you are surrounded by people who have ties to other countries. From athletic stars, to business figures, to private citizens like you and me, immigrants share their wealth of talents and contribute daily to the fabric of our society. Are you sitting next to an immigrant right now?