It’s been my dream for years to immigrate to the United States. Originally from the United Kingdom, I was attracted to America’s embrace of freedom, capitalism, and proud traditions of liberty sorely lacking in my native country. I wanted to defend those liberties in America. Like other immigrants, I do a job that most Americans don’t want to – defend the Constitution.
Recently, however, I found out that my American Dream is over. I will shortly have to leave the land I love and return to the United Kingdom.
What happened that put me in this position?
The Department of Labor (DOL) ruled that the American non-profit that wanted to hire me cannot.
I was offered a staff attorney position at a Washington, D.C. non-profit committed to advancing right to work laws. I went to university here and then law school at William and Mary and have called Virginia home for years.
As part of the application for the visa, the non-profit had to show that no American was available to do my job and that I was being paid wage similar to other attorneys in the city.
The DOL compared my anticipated wage at a non-profit to what lawyers make in private practice. Of course I would have made less at a non-profit, that’s how they work, but the government did not adjust its one-size fits all way of measuring wages.
Despite proof that my salary was going to be in line with other non-profit lawyer salaries in the city, the DOL rejected the paperwork and me along with it.
The DOL gave me no reason for why the visa application was denied. By law, they do not have to provide one.
I have no opportunity to appeal. There is no possibility to re-file for the visa because the government grants so few every year that they ran out weeks ago.
But my experience is just a microcosm of America’s disastrous immigration system. There is no immigration line. There is no Ellis Island. I can’t go down to the local post office and apply for a green card. I have lived here legally—studying and working hard—but under the law there is no way for me to stay .
An overly complex, tortuously slow, and arbitrary immigration system at the whim of unaccountable bureaucrats rules the day.
The laws that so many of my fellow Americans want to be enforced make it impossible for me – and many others like me – from living the American Dream. These laws also hurt our country in the process, burdening employers with expensive regulations for no conceivable end, and leaving positions unfilled.
I don’t want a hand out. I’ll gladly sign a piece of paper saying that I am ineligible for welfare, Social Security, and Medicare. I’ve always paid taxes, bought insurance, and played by all of the rules. I’ve never committed a crime nor do I intend to. All I want is a chance to legally live, work, and defend the Constitution of my country.
Highly-skilled immigrants have been voiceless in the debate over immigration reform. Illegal immigrants wanting legalization, immigration enforcement hawks, and guest workers have sucked all of the air out of the room.
I understand the concerns of all those groups and share many of them myself, but please do not forget the millions of highly skilled immigrants and potential immigrants who are trying to follow the laws.
My dearest friends have started a White House petition called “Let Sophie Stay.” I implore you, please visit it.
I will not commit fraud to get a green card through a sham marriage nor will I stay here illegally. I will not break the law no matter how unjust I think it is.
I feel American in every way that counts but the federal government and its laws think otherwise. In our knowledge economy, we need to attract the most talented and hard-working people as high-skilled immigrants.
This is crucial to our competitiveness and growth since it creates more jobs and provides a better quality of life for everyone. As a plea from one would-be American to the citizens of this great country, please change these immigration laws to include highly-skilled workers.
Sophie Cole is a graduate of Oxford Brookes University, the University of Westminster, and the College of William and Mary. Originally from Southampton, England, she is now a licensed attorney living and working in Washington, DC.