We are all from shitholes

Before we were Americans, we all emigrated from shithole countries. With great fortune hard work, and a willingness to welcome those who dream of becoming American, we have established a national tradition of rewarding those with the ambition and bravery to seek a better life for themselves and their families. However, America’s sitting President, when speaking in an Oval Office meeting on Immigration with the peoples’ representatives, asked why we should accept immigrants from shitholes like Haiti and Africa rather than from places like Norway.

Some people have defended these comments, stating that if the countries insulted by the President are not shitholes, then their people wouldn’t be leaving those countries to come to the US.

I challenge everyone who agrees with the above statement to look deep into their heart and consider, for a moment, the humanity and aspirations of a person who comes from a struggling nation looking to better their life: by calling the homeland of this person a shithole, you are suggesting that they themselves are shit.

US immigration laws are written out of economic self-interest and already create significant barriers for anyone looking to enter. With stringent security measures and limited routes for immigration, we prioritize accepting immigrants who possess skills that are needed in this country (employment based immigration), who invest substantially in our economy and create jobs (investor immigrant), who come from underrepresented countries such as Norway (through a diversity visa which Mr. Trump, ironically, spoke of abolishing), or who are close family members of current US citizens (spouses, parents, children, and siblings of US Citizens or spouse and children of permanent residents).

While we are sometimes willing to admit immigrants who may immediately boost our economy, we accept very few refugees compared to other advanced nations – European countries, Canada, or countries close to the current Syrian refugee crisis. While the US once called to the “huddled masses” to seek refuge within its borders, we are now abdicating our position of leadership by replacing efforts at humanitarian aid with “America first” policies.

Therefore, the President’s remark shows his ignorance of our already limited willingness to help those entangled in our world’s greatest crises, suggesting not that we do more, but that we already do too much for people are dark and poor (Haitians and Africans) instead of providing assistance for those who are white and prosperous (Norwegians).

I do not write these words out of any political party loyalty or agenda; I am writing as a concerned citizen of the world that I live in.

In my 20 years of practice as an immigration lawyer, I have not met a single person who immigrated to another country to lower their quality of life. Historically, immigrants seek to become Americans because they are seeking something better. That is, they make the difficult, painful decision to leave their home because they have acknowledged that their home cannot provide the opportunities they desire for themselves and their families. This is not a trivial decisions and it is not a blanket condemnation of their country of origin, but rather a hopeful effort to improve lives.

Immigrants come to the USA to seek religious freedom, to seek food out of hunger, to seek life out of war, to seek freedom from political oppression, to seek better economic opportunities, and to seek better education for their children. All Americans, including the President, originated from troubled countries, but that does not make immigrants shit; that makes them just as American as the rest of us.

Yes, it is true some countries have extremely poor conditions – politically and economically. And yes, it is true that immigration policies need to be realistic and that making human migration unrestricted cannot solve the world’s problems.

Yet ultimately, when we write our immigration policies, the basic principles should be: all humans deserve equal consideration whether they happen to be born in troubled circumstances or not; all humans are human whether they have the fairest skin or darkest skin. Skin color and race must not have a place in our immigration policy or we risk transforming America into a true shithole, one where we promote the failure of those who are less fortunate instead of helping them to rise to freedom and happiness.

Immigration Policy and Compassion

2017 was a turbulent year for nearly every facet of American life, particularly where immigration law and implementation were concerned. As immigration policy governs how human beings traverse our borders, it is inseparable from our security and economic policies. Thus, when our immigration policies change, it impacts all of us, immigrants and native US citizens alike.

The most infamous policies pursued by the President of the United States and the Republican party in 2017 include the Muslim travel ban, increased arrests of the undocumented immigrants, the establishment of border wall, and a rescission of DACA. While these policies touched on religion, family, and race issues, thereby invoking strong public reaction and condemnation, government agencies continued to suppress legal immigration quietly behind the scenes, attracting far less attention than some of the more inflammatory policy decisions. One might call this under-the-radar suppression of legal immigration “the invisible wall.”

Since the executive order “Buy American Hire American” was issued, USCIS, ICE, and US Consulates have increased and added more vetting procedures for prospective United States immigrants and temporary workers. For example,

  • When conducting applicant interviews for USCIS approved cases, the US consulate has implemented onerous administrative processing requirements with no specific rationale, causing delays from several months to over a year in an already lengthy process
  • USCIS has added mandatory interviews on most employment based immigration cases
  • There is now a higher standard of review and an increased request for evidence for submitting an application for an H-1B visa
  • Visa extension cases, where immigrants have already been vetted, are being managed with same standards used in processing initial cases
  • The EAD (Employment Authorization Document) has seen significant and unprecedented processing delays

As a result of these deliberate stalling measures, both employers and immigrant employees are experiencing immense inconvenience and disruption of business. The path to legal immigration has been narrowed and fewer foreign visitor, students, workers, and immigrants are permitted to enter the United States.



One of the immigration policy goals of the current administration for 2018 is the discontinuance of H-1B visa extensions beyond the initial six years. The seventh-year extension has been for green card applicants who have begun the process of obtaining a green card some time ago but are still waiting in line for the next available visa number. If this extension is disallowed, employers may simply lose highly qualified employees who have established their lives in the US. Whether or not this would lead to increased job opportunities for Americans remains unclear as immigration sponsorship is already quite expensive and cumbersome; employers do not pursue H-1B workers if they have qualified candidates who are US citizens.

When a long-held policy changes suddenly, it results in many applicants having to leave the life and work they have known for significant years to find shelter in another country, taking their talent and their ability to contribute to the economy with them.

In response to some of the administrations immigration policy decisions around stripping citizenship rights based on administrative errors, even John Roberts, the conservative US Supreme Court Chief Justice, has said that the administrations efforts amount to “prosecutorial abuse.”

When a policy is thought of and implemented, its power goes beyond the text of a bill: policies impact real peoples’ lives. No policy will perfectly accommodate every immigration case and sacrifices may be unavoidable. However, a policy with compassion rather than spite would yield better outcomes for our country – on principle as well as in practice.