Sunday, May 20, 2007

Family Based Visa – Reality Check

It is wrong for NYT to lament that new Immigration bill wants to break from the existing practice of family based immigration.
( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/20/opinion/20sun1.html?hp )
The bill of course preserves immigration of immediate family members (spouse and dependent children) but opposes immigration of extended family members (brothers and sisters). The reason is NYT and Liberals unnecessarily assume deeper family roots than what is the reality in rest of the world. One almost feels this is one more instance where Liberals are simply more romantic than what reality warrants.

Take the case of India. More than half of India’s population is living in ‘nuclear families’ meaning parents and children only. The percentage of joint families where two brothers share the same kitchen along with their family is reducing fast. Most of the urban areas in India have nuclear families and in additional cases parents staying with grown up children rather than married children sharing a same household. Even there, the trend is retired parents staying separately than their kids.

This means it is bit hypocritical or ‘reality denying’ argument by these liberals to insist that family based immigration should continue – where one’s grown up brothers or sisters with their independent families should be immigrated to USA just because someone in the family came here. The case with parents is also same – retired parents are staying away from married kids in increasing number even in India.

As urbanization increases and agriculture dependent population decreases; percentage of nuclear family increases all over the world – India, China and other countries are no exception. This means insistence on bringing extended family members is misplaced. The only case that can be made for is for the grown up children who are yet to marry. By and large grown up children of the age 18 to 25 should get preference since they still depend on their parents. In today’s world where years in acquiring qualifications or apprenticeship are extended; kids do not become self supporting until late in their twenties. There too, if a young adult is already married, then one can make the argument that he or she has grown up so as to treat as an independent adult. If you are grown up enough to marry and take responsibility of a family; then sure you do not need cattails of your parents.

Given this background, then what is wrong with the rational demand that as a country USA should give preference to those adults who can participate in American Economy directly, regardless of at what level – low paying jobs or high paying? The key is you want someone who contributes to nation’s economy and is in position to raise his or her family.

One wonders whether there is a pure political motive behind insisting visas for extended family – it increases potential future vote bank for Dems. But liberal media like NYT need not succumb to such thinking.

As compensation to such a restricted family based immigration, Liberals should demand higher political asylum based immigration. America must be the nation which embraces people who are persecuted for political reason. It is a right case to make. For example, take the case of Iraqi’s who sided with ill fated American adventure in last few years? In 1991 Gulf war Saddam slaughtered 10,000 Shiites in Southern Iraq who attempted a revolt when the first President Bush exhorted them to throw the Saddam regime (but America did not support them). In the current Iraq war, regardless of follies of President Bush, so many Iraqis sided with America while risking everything in their life. What we need is America supporting these people and making it easy for them to come to America. Republicans are shameless – they are the ones who so enthusiastically supported Bush’s Iraq war policy and but do not want to come forward in accepting these Iraqis in American life when eventual painful withdrawal happens. Dems are keeping quite on this topic because it advertises what would happen when America eventually withdraws from Iraq and that part Dems do not want to share with America. American forces of course need to get out of the active combat in Iraq, but Dems cannot ignore the humanitarian need of Iraqi’s who supported America for political reasons. It is these types of situations and other political persecutions (like it is happening to so many in Russia) where America needs to open her immigration doors.

There are many other items in the proposed immigration bill (like requiring year long gap for a guest worker between renewal of his or her visa) which Liberals and Dems may want to correct. But misplaced emphasis on ‘extended family based’ visa (arguing as if it is only Liberals who understand the ‘family based’ life of Asians) is no good for America.

‘Free rider’ immigration does not help to create the value of freedom whereas employment based immigration helps to inculcate the sense of ‘contribution and earning’ within the ‘self help’ American story, quintessentially American dream. Further, it is the political asylum which nurtures America’s freedom with every addition of people strengthening her sense of liberty. Also as a result America as a nation, build on immigrants, carries within her society piece of history reminding failures of other societies and America’s positive contribution in those far away struggles whenever America absorbs political refugees. Needless to say, these immigrants help America to immunize herself from tyrannies which are so common in rest of the world.

Umesh Patil
Cupertino, CA 95014
May 20, 2007.

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