Immigrants: Are you worth it?

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Flags from different countries

Since beginning my work in the immigration world in the United States and in Europe, one of the most noticeable and undisputable things I have come to realize is that the world of immigration policy is generally ruled by one thing: merit.

The newest version of the Public Charge Rule is just the most recent example of how our society and government are constantly telling immigrants to prove to us that they are worth it. Essentially, the newest version of this rule is trying to reduce immigrants from coming into the US that less have skills, less money, less education, and thus, less “merit”. Do you have special skills that will be helpful to the labor market? Do you have a college degree? Do you speak English and/or multiple other languages? Do you have enough money that you will not rely on public benefits like SNAP or TANF? These are the metrics by which the American government decides the worth of immigrants.

However, this sort of meritocratic approach to immigration is not exclusive to the United States by any means. As an immigrant in the UK, you are classed into four tiers. Tier 1 is for “high value” immigrants that demonstrate exceptional talent. The lowest tier is for temporary migrants. Within each tier, you are allocated points based on language capacity, financial resources, and age. As always, the more points, the better.

In Italy, immigrants are subject to a similar point based system in which you have approximately two years to achieve 30 points in order to receive a residence permit. Points are gained through things like owning a home while points can be lost as well.

Here are just three examples of how immigration policies continue to focus on merit. These policies continue to send the message to immigrants that “we will welcome you if you prove that you are worthy of our country”.

However, none of us chose the country in which we are born. We do not choose the nationality we get at birth. I did not choose to get a passport that grants me access to 170 countries without a visa, nor did any of our clients choose to be born in countries which inherently limit their freedom of movement and too frequently their safety.

Essentially, as a society we judge people based on their economic value and ability to produce for a country instead of seeing them as what they are: human beings. A system in which humans are granted rights based on their “worthiness” to a country and of a country is an inherently unjust system. It is a system that I cannot accept, and I hope that you do not either.


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