In my July 17 comment I discussed the predicament of a distinguished Indian scientist and cancer researcher, whose work has been internationally recognized as holding out the potential to save many lives, and whose EB-1 immigrant petition based on extraordinary ability was quickly and easily approved by the USCIS.
Despite his long list of undisputed achievements, however, his immigrant visa application is being held up by the US embassy in New Delhi pending "verification" of the facts in his petition, almost all of which are matters of public record and many of which can be checked by a simple Google search within a few minutes, not to mention the extensive documentation in his file which was sitting on the visa interviewing officer's desk
My comment also pointed out that holding up visas for "verification" now appears to be a routine practice at US consular offices in India. Evidently, this practice began with the politically unpopular (among right wing anti- immigrant activists) H-1B visas, but this "cancer" (since it is hard to think of a more appropriate word), is apparently now spreading to processing of immigrant visas as well.
This is not to say that US visa officers should be prevented from checking the veracity of approved petitions. Sometimes discrepancies or questions may arise during a visa interview, or in the documents themselves, which make it appropriate to look into a matter further. But this is a far cry from adopting a policy which, in effect, assumes that every visa application may be fraudulent and require full investigation.
The only purpose of a rule which assumes that every visa applicant is guilty until proven innocent is to intimidate legitimate visa applicants, discourage them from trying to come to the US, and ultimately, find pretexts for denying visas. This is also extremely damaging to the reputation of the United States as a country which claims to, and needs to, attract the best and the brightest to our shores in order to maintain its world leadership and boost its economy.
In effect, America is saying to distinguished scientists and other highly educated professionals: "If you try to pursue your career in the US, we will assume that you are a liar and unfit to come to America unless and until we find some reason to decide otherwise in our own good time."
What a great way to ensure that the world's most talented cancer researchers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and achievers in every field of endeavor find their way to Canada, Australia or other less xenophobic countries. What does this do to America's image?
Is it really in the interests of America to become known as a country which is more interested in keeping its population white - let's not beat around the bush - than to gain the obvious benefits to our society of having top professionals from all over the world share their skills with us, rather than go somewhere else to help other nations compete with the US?
There can be only one reason why the Obama administration would wish to turn such a basic rule of fairness on its head and disgrace its own reputation in the world as a country which follows the rule of law. This is to appease the rabid anti-immigrant right wing of the Republican party, the Charles Grassley's, the Lamar Smith's, for whom every skilled visa application is "fraudulent" ipso facto and the idea of any immigrant who can actually benefit the US is an oxymoron.
Why is President Obama evidently so anxious to bow down and kiss the feet (a different part of the anatomy also comes to mind) of the anti-immigration bigots in the opposition party? Is he going to gain their votes? This is one of the great mysteries of his presidency. It is also one of the most important reasons why his presidency may last for only one term.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.