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Dear Editor:
I am writing this letter to make my voice heard-- in hopes that there is someone out there with the power to make decisions on immigration policy, who will consider a type of case that has been left out of the immigration dialogue.

Why is it that US immigration policy is so non-merit based? The concept of "merit" is debatable, yes, but there are certain qualities that the majority of countries in this world consider essential in determining residence or citizenship of a person in a certain country. Long-term presence in the country; degree of acculturation; acquisition of the official language; socioeconomic contributions; adherence to the country's laws; and loyalty to the country are common categories of judgment.

I grew up in this country, and have been here for more than half my life. I was an A+ student and graduated from a top-notch university. I have no criminal record, not even a traffic violation, and I have not been illegal for one day. It just so happened that after I had spent many years in this country as a child, I accompanied my parents back to their home country upon the termination of their business assignment in the states. I returned to the US to attend college and have been here since-- struggling on an H-1b visa. I spent several years of my life starting every school day pledging allegiance to the flag, and upon my return, I am treated as an alien. How could this possibly be justified?? The knowledge that I am illegal the moment I am fired in this fragile economy, that I have no way of obtaining a green card unless I marry someone or find a sponsor in this ailing economy (not much of an incentive for an employer to engage in a process that's going to take years and years for completion), the fact that I have to sit here and wait for another two years before my labor certification is approved anyway (or not approved) because I live in a state heavily populated by illegal aliens who applied before me, that I cannot find freedom of employment outside my college major (not a major nearly as H-1b-practical as economics. How was I to know how to tailor my college major toward my future H-1b application??) Despite my ambitions, that the kids I grew up with look at me in bewilderment when I tell them I do not have the mobility that they have-- is just devastating. How could this be? My native tongue is English, acquired through my long-term residence here (my first language is a non-Indo-European language), my memories of childhood lie in the suburbs of a state I currently "exist in" (not legally a resident in) as an alien, and for every juicy start-up company idea or invitation, I have to simply explain that I will not have the freedom to do so until the line gets shorter. In the meantime, I have already taken half a dozen jobs that barely exceed the prevailing wage... some employers take advantage of the fact that I am in no position to challenge my wages.

There are amnesties for illegal aliens, and there are TPS programs for nationals of certain countries. People with criminal records file "waivers" if a problem arises. Corporate executives obtain green cards in less than a year, since they file through EB-1 and do not have to deal with the grueling Labor Certification process. People win green cards through a "lottery". Family-based immigration guidelines allow permanent residents to sponsor family members that have never seen the US nor have any allegiance to it.

So, we have a great range of options for obtaining a green card... and somehow someone like me does not qualify. My allegiance to the country, my longtime residence, my education and cultural fluency, the impeccable English I acquired upon my arrival in this country... none of these even count as factors.

I understand the U.S.'s acceptance of immigrants from a multitude of languages and cultures, and I applaud its efforts to accommodate those who are coming to seek better lives here. However, in the process, it has created a system that has largely ignored people like myself- long-term residents who have been schooled in this country, who identify themselves as "American", yet have no path towards applying for a green card. Moreover, the green card predates citizenship by five years, so it will be another five more years from that point, whenever that point in time is, that I will have residence and citizenship consistent with my identity.

I think it is of utmost importance that U.S. immigration law keeps its arms open towards those who, in appreciation of the U.S.'s generous acceptance of newcomers (or without choice, because they grew up here as a child and know no other identity), have demonstrated their adherence to its laws and standards.

More than once I have been cat-called by non-English speakers on the street who somehow obtained a green card to work (or not work!), and I've run into plenty of cab drivers (green card holders) who'd filed through amnesties for illegal workers, lived here for decades and spoke almost no English because they have had very limited contact with people outside their own ethnic group. I also personally know people who came into this country with a strong negative political opinion of the US... because they won the green card lottery and figured they might be financially better off. I feel that the system is jeering at me. I mention these things because I personally find this situation questionable; yet again I realize that many who read this publication find the above perfectly reasonable, and in such a case I will just say: well, sure, I'm glad that a variety of people find a way to reside here. However, where is the path for the long-term resident alien with no criminal record or illegal stay, whose self-proclaimed identity is no other than "American"??

So there are two questions I would like to pose: 1. Will US immigration continue to exclude one's long-term residence and sense of identity and belonging (categorizing oneself as "American") from the dialogue? And 2. How do you justify such an outrageous immigration system?

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