Jeffrey Heller's amazing bike ride to support immigration reform

America’s current immigration laws are contrary to common sense or human nature. Photo: Jeffrey Heller ready to hit the road Image: M. Salazar

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., May 25, 2012 — On May 22, 2012, WTC published my article, documenting the first part of my interview with Jeffrey Heller, who stayed with me on one of his stops. Heller was biking from his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Nashville in support of civil rights for immigrants. Here is part two of the interview:

21st Century Pacifist: What do you think is wrong with our current immigration process/laws?

Jeffrey Heller: In short: the laws do not comport with common sense or human nature. As you have read on the blog, we have bureaucrats deciding which and how many foreigners an employer can hire — we don’t let the boss run her own business. Bureaucrats dictate who can visit as an American citizen, who can live with that citizen, even when it comes to parents, spouses and children.

If Albert Einstein gets a green card (that process being a whole other story), and if he’s already married, his wife is eligible for a green card too (although there’s no guarantee she’ll get it). But if Albert is single and marries his European high school honey afterwards, the honey will go on a waiting list because of a quota. She might have to wait four years for her green card. In the meantime, she will not be allowed to visit the U.S., because visitors are not allowed to have “dual intent.”

Immigration Laws Cause Hardships on Families

A visitor must intend to stay temporarily only, and a visitor who’s married to a lawful permanent resident might (horrors!) also intend some day to live with her husband! Albert can visit her, but only for short stints, because a green card is for lawful permanent residents, and if he spends too long abroad, he will be deemed to have interrupted his residence for purposes of accumulating time towards citizenship eligibility, and may be considered to have abandoned his residence altogether, losing the green card.

So the couple must make separate lives for four years, even though the government’s ground for giving the spouse a green card is that they intend to make a life together, and the government examines their relationship, in this case, a long-distance relationship, in deciding whether the marriage (100% recognized as “real” in the state or country where it was entered into) is “real” enough for immigration purposes.

Jeffrey Heller pauses along the road to Nashville

21CP: How do you suggest the laws should be changed?

JH: Big-picture, bottom-line: Align the laws with common sense and human nature. Stop the bureaucratic management of families and businesses. Use our resources to check for criminal backgrounds and bad intentions, rather than worrying about into which pigeonhole an honorable person fits.

We should abolish family visa quotas, so families can stay together. For some categories, relatives can wait more than 20 years to immigrate, and for other categories, there are no visas available at all.

We should end quotas on work visas. If Bill Gates wants to hire a particular engineer from abroad, because in his judgment Microsoft needs that engineer, we should let Mr. Gates run his business as he sees fit, not erect barriers because some less-qualified American engineer, who in Mr. Gate’s judgment is not right for the job, is unemployed.

If a parent wants to hire a particular person to care for her children while she works, we should let her choose, not invoke the same “Americans first” rule that says that if a minimally qualified American babysitter is available, she can’t hire the superbly qualified foreign babysitter she and her family prefer.

America Should Reward Immigrant Talent and Energy

We should relax requirements to enter the U.S. by enacting something akin to the Canadian and Australian point systems. Those countries award points for age, skills, language ability, etc., and if the point total shows you have something to offer the country and want to try your luck, they welcome you to come and find work with no need for a relative or employer-sponsor.

They say, “If you have talent and energy, we want you on our team!” Compare that to the American system of grudgingly issuing student visas, teaching talented people at our fine universities, then expelling them after they graduate and sending them abroad to work for our competitors and our enemies.

So much time, energy, and public and private money are wasted on worrying out immigration categories and keeping out people needed by our families, communities, and economy. Let’s stop chasing fruit pickers and busboys and nannies across the Arizona desert.

Let’s give them visas, check their backgrounds, and if they try to bypass that more open system, we will have more reason to suspect they’re up to no good. As it is, the criminal mix with the vast majority of good people who are forced by bad laws and desperate circumstances to try to circumvent our current system.

Jeffrey Heller with his unusual bike Photo: author

And we should recognize that the millions of unauthorized immigrants, who already are part of our community, should be recognized as such. They are only about 3% of our population; about half have Americans or lawful permanent residents in their immediate families; and about half are visa overstays, meaning they are civil violators, not criminals even under the broad categories of “criminals” that Congress invented under our immigration laws.

Most Immigrants Are Not Criminals

Let’s get real. A criminal steals, is violent, etc. A real criminal is not, say, a Mexican who can’t grow corn cheap enough to compete with subsidized American imports, so to feed his family, he crosses an artificial line on a map to provide his labor to an American farmer who needs that labor, and in the process he feeds American consumers, spends money at American businesses, and sends money home to feed his family. That’s not a criminal. That’s a good husband, father, worker, community member, whom most of us would be proud to call friend and neighbor. As I wrote in last year’s blog post, “Immigration Snapshot: Amnesty”:

We should remember the words of our President: And I remind people all across our country, family values do not stop at the Rio Bravo. There are people in Mexico who have got children, who are worried about where they are going to get their next meal from. And they are going to come to the United States, if they think they can make money here. That’s a simple fact. And they’re willing to walk across miles of desert to do work that some Americans won’t do. And we’ve got to respect that, it seems like to me, and treat those people with respect.”

It was not Bill Clinton or Barack Obama who spoke these words. It was George W. Bush. He realized that a country that forgives treason, espionage and tax evasion should have the common sense and decency to give peaceful busboys and farmworkers a break too.

Mr. Bush gave that speech about a month before the WTC attacks. Evidently he got distracted. We enhanced border controls, effectively bottling up the workers who used to go North to work, South for the holidays, and who now stay here, and did not solve the fundamental problem of irrational immigration laws.

NOTE: The rest of the interview will be published next.


Read Also:

Jeffrey Heller interview: The plight of immigrants drives his cause for justice

Biking 1,000 miles for human rights: Jeffrey Heller’s journey for refugees



Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, civil engineer, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles - ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket - in 21st Century Pacifist <> at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.

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Mario Salazar

Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man, pacifist, metal smith, glass artisan, computer programmer and he has a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering.  Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change.  He will also try to convey his joy of being old.

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