Immigration Reform 2013: The System is Broken When Constitutional Lawyers Can't Stay in the U.S.


The Gang of Eight has reportedly reached a deal on immigration reform, and the bill is set to be released this week. However, while the media focuses on that, one girl who has followed the rules will soon be forced to leave America while those who have broken the rules are free to stay.

Sophie Cole is a British citizen living legally in the U.S. She studied here for her undergraduate and law degrees, and is a licensed attorney in Virginia. She has worked as a legal associate for a think tank in Washington D.C. specializing in constitutional law since August 2012. Most importantly, she loves America and has followed the law. Like many immigrants, Sophie does a job Americans don't want to do defending our Constitution.

However, Wednesday, April 3, 2013, she learned her American dream has come to an end, due to what is essentially government bureaucracy. She has started a White House Petition to fight the decision, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account to help spread the word about what she calls an "injustice."

Sophie was offered the position of staff attorney by a non-profit that represents union employees and fights for worker freedom. The non-profit began an application for a high-skilled immigrant H1B visa for Sophie. As part of this process, the non-profit had to undergo rigorous demands to prove that no American was available to do the job. Before the non-profit could apply for the remainder of the visa, they had to submit intensive information about the salary that Sophie would have been earning.

The U.S. immigration system is "harshly protectionist," and the Department of Labor is convinced high-skilled immigrants will have lower salaries than their American citizen counterparts. In order to prove otherwise, the non-profit had to submit a "Wage Survey" to the Department of Labor with a salary calculation based on the average salary for a D.C. lawyer working for a non-profit. This confirmed she would have been earning the going rate.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, she learned the "Wage Survey" was denied. There is no opportunity to appeal, and no explanation was given, because the Department of Labor does not have to provide one. There was no possibility to re-file for an H1B visa because the number available has already been maxed out. "The decision, without even an explanation, is unfair and unjust," says Sophie. Even a person living in America illegally receives a reason for their deportation and a chance to appeal. Sophie received neither.

The White House petition asks the Obama Administration to grant full and permanent legal status to Sophie.

There are various prominent opinions on immigration, but we all can agree that there is something amiss with an immigration system that punishes those like Sophie who follow the rules and rewards those who break the rules by letting them stay in America. Sophie refuses to live here illegally or marry someone to stay here because she will not commit fraud against the country she loves.

Sophie's integrity means she will have to return to England in July if the White House petition does not succeed. Immigrants legal and illegal alike come here for different reasons, often for a better life. One enormous conflict in the immigration system is that the United States government ignores immigrants who stay here unlawfully and punishes those who follow the rules. The immigration system needs to change. It needs to stop punishing those who follow the rules, stop rewarding those who don't, and remove the red tape.

Sophie understands the White House petition may not succeed, and even if she does acquire the necessary 100,000 signatures, President Obama may still deny her legal status. However, she hopes she can at least influence the debate on immigration and do some good in her battle.