On the Right Track? Exploring the Adverse Effects of the Proposed Track One Visa System
By Danielle Beach-Oswald
As most of us involved in the immigration field are aptly aware, the new immigration reform bill was recently approved by the Senate and on October 2nd, and the bill was finally introduced in the House of Representatives. If passed, the immigration reform bill will make a climatic and transformative impact on U.S. immigration law which will include the elimination of backlogs for immigrants who meet specific criteria, the elimination of certain family visa categories, and the creation of a merit-based point system for visas.
One of the various point systems contemplated in this bill is the “Track One” visa. Eligibility for the Track-One visa is premised on various “merit”-based factors such as level of education, employment experience, age, and the number of U.S citizen relatives. This article briefly dissects the proposed “Track One” visa system before analyzing some of the adverse effects that might be promulgated under this new system; mainly its proclivity to discriminate against women. I propose what methods this system can implement to account for females who have been denied education and employment in other countries in addition to still placing value on the educated and employed.
One of the main prefaces of the new Track-One visa program is the allocation of points based on the individual applicant’s level of education. For example, five points will be allocated for applicants who have already obtained a Bachelor’s Degree at the time of submitting their application. Additionally, applicants who have obtained a Master’s degree will receive ten points, and fifteen points will be awarded to applicants who possess a Doctorate.
The government perhaps decided to put an emphasis on educational achievement to increase “brain drain,” or the emigration of educated and talented people, into the American work force. This would potentially weed out unskilled or inexperienced immigrants in favor of a more industrious addition to the American working class. Points will also be allocated based on years of employment in the United States, how relevant the job is to the education obtained, entrepreneurship and investments in the U.S. market, and whether or not one’s occupation is in high demand. Additionally, the point system will take into consideration an individual’s age, civic involvement, proficiency in English, and country of origin. Thus, visa allocations under this system will heavily favor applicants who are highly educated and experienced in their field of employment.
Before arguing how this visa point system discriminates against women residing in other countries, it is important to note the “Track One” point system’s advantages, such as placing value on learning and employment. For example, this system will concentrate the percentage of immigrants in the U.S who are able to offer us their obtained education and work experience. This could potentially decrease the immigrant unemployment rate as well as promote immigrants to obtain higher degrees of education or more work experience in their country prior to applying for a U.S visa.
However, in most places, opportunity for education and learning unfortunately depend on socio-economic status. For example, according to the United Nations Statistics Division, in other countries, “analysis shows that school attendance declines as the number of hours spent on household chores increases – and declines more steeply for girls than for boys” (The World’s Women 2010, unstats.un.org). There is nothing wrong with valuing those who are educated and have work experience, however the merit-based point system for this bill barely accounts for those who may thrive economically in the U.S if given the opportunity, but have been restricted in their home countries from obtaining higher education, and therefore jobs.
Women especially are restricted from gaining education and employment. Many women live in oppressive countries that force women to be caregivers for the rest of their lives, or restrict women from accessing opportunities to progress educationally or in the work force. According to Gender Discrimination in Education: The Violation of Rights of Women and Girls, “two thirds of the world’s non-literate adults are women” and “in the Central African Republic , Niger, Chad, and Malawi, for example, 1 in 200 girls go to university.” Many countries require that women do not show their faces in public or make laws that prohibit women from obtaining jobs other than caregiving for cultural or religious reasons.
In many countries such as India, Sharia law, the Islam moral code and religious law, is enforced to prevent females from going to school or working. For example, according to an article in the Herald, a female student named “Malala Yousafzai was shot for going to school in Pakistan. Women fear the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the loss of their freedom. A female student was horribly raped and murdered in India. Islamic fundamentalists are imposing Sharia law on women in northern Mali” (“Let Our Girls Enjoy Their Childhood Without Fear”). Due to these sorts of conditions, many women would be barred from visa eligibility based on their inability to acquire sufficient points in the education and employment categories in their home countries.
The main point of the “Track One” visa should not be solely to allow entry those who are highly educated and experienced in their field, which would only promote a population of wealthy males. The “Track One” visa system should absolutely maintain its current values and point system for encouraging the educated and the employed. However, this point system should also give opportunity to those who show promise but were denied education in their home countries for no legitimate reason.
One way to implement the consideration of female immigrants who have been prevented from gaining education or work experience would be to add categories such as number of years caregiving or previous attempts at gaining education or employment. Another option would be to give female applicants the option to submit a statement discussing how they were prevented from access to education and jobs in their native country, and an organized plan indicating what steps they plan to take in America toward gaining education and work now that they have that opportunity. Requiring oppressed applicants to make and commit to a two or four year plan, for example, specifying how they will gain education or training for a desired occupation, would value education and employment while additionally considering those who have not been given the option in their countries to further their professional standing.
This “Track One” visa program as it stands does not acknowledge women who, despite restricted access to education and jobs due to sexual discrimination in their home countries, may very well show potential for growth and prosperity in America. In sum, I propose maintaining the “Track One” visa point system’s admirable emphasis on education and employment. This system needs to also provide options to females who have been denied educational or employment opportunities in their home countries, which I propose can be achieved by giving the applicant the option to submit a statement of their individual oppression, or to submit a detailed plan indicating how the applicant will gain education and employment as a potential resident in America.