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Managing editor and migrant student Sam Parsons (no relation) recently offered his perspective on the state of America’s immigration system in a looming 2,100-word column titled “Defending Princeton’s 12 percent: The unseen side of the anti-immigration movement.” In what quickly morphs from an insightful remark on the often untold vocational difficulties faced by international students to a partisan diatribe, Parsons lurches into a clumsy yet familiar attack on Trump and his not-so-recent failure to pass immigration reform. However, besides the conflation of the F-1 visa, which Parsons presumably uses, and the H-1B, which he clearly does not, what I found particularly problematic was his framing of American identity as merely an arbitrary construct. To me, like millions of other Americans who support key elements of Trump’s immigration proposals, the question of who is admitted to our country for work, travel, and citizenship is a weighty question that requires continued scrutiny. 

Missing from Parsons’s analysis of the H-1B program is any mention of the loophole that allows companies and large outsourcing firms to bypass regulations mandating market-based wages for visa holders and proof that the job could not have been filled by an American citizen. By hiring immigrants who possess a master’s degree or paying the visa holder any salary greater than $60,000, large corporations are allowed to, and do, pay below market wages to grateful immigrants while equally qualified Americans are left on the sidelines. While Trump’s increased scrutiny of H-1B visa applicants presents an inconvenient and patience-testing burden to international students at Princeton and elsewhere, I, for one, think it is a righteous attempt to ensure fair play and protect the average American from amoral corporate greed. 

Visa gamesmanship is the rule, not the exception. To illustrate, the New York Times, a paper not prone to sympathy for Trump or his policies, found that nearly one-third of H-1B visas were used in tandem with this deceitful strategy. In part, this is because the visa is issued through a lottery process. Large companies rig the system by filing so many applications that they are statistically bound to win tens of thousands of low-wage employees. And while Parsons would have you believe that $6,000 in legal fees for visa sponsorship is sufficient deterrence to multi-billion dollar companies seeking an edge, the $20,000 that they save on average per-year, per-visa by underpaying migrants keeps the corporate balance sheet in the black.

Of course, the reason discussions on immigration policy are so polarized is completely unrelated to the macroeconomic implications of visa reciprocity or any other bureaucratic factoid. Instead, these issues are emotional for many because they ask us to define, in law, what it should take to become an American. More importantly, it asks us to determine the impossible: Who is deserving of becoming a citizen? 

This is a question that the author ignores for the most part, only occasionally advocating for a more “open legal immigration system.” It is clear, however, that the author would like to be a citizen and resident of the United States and thinks himself deserving. I wonder why. Is it because he is clearly an intelligent individual educated at one of the finest universities in the world? Is it because he is presumably an egalitarian with liberal values? Is it because he has spent significant time in our country and feels well assimilated? 

Clearly, Parsons appears to be a strong candidate to live and work in this country, and it is not just because we share the same surname or any other arbitrary characteristic like his country of origin or the immigrant status of his extended family. 

Fortunately, Trump’s immigration reform framework would reward people like the author in their legitimate applications for H1-B status visas by mitigating the prevalence of borderline fraudulent attempts by companies looking to outsource jobs to save money. It would also eliminate the nonsensical policies surrounding the diversity visa lottery, a bald-faced, valueless attempt at social engineering. Additionally, rather than stringing along the 1.8 million undocumented residents of the United States with a constitutionally flimsy DACA program, Trump has offered a 10–12-year path to citizenship in exchange for border wall funding. 

Admittedly, these political strides probably offer little consolation to the rising-senior author as he nears post-grad purgatory. However, I am happy to say that these policies are strengthening the present and future of the Union. For those planning on voting in our nation’s upcoming midterm elections, I implore you to vote for the local candidates that best serve your interests. At the end of the day, the politicians that have the greatest impact on one’s everyday life are sheriffs, mayors, and zoning committees, not the President. In any case, you will have to wait two more years to vote for Bernie Sanders again. 

Max Parsons is a junior concentrating in economics from Seneca, S.C. He can be reached at maxp@princeton.edu.

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