Some Legal Immigrants Left out of National Debate

Commentator Tejvir Singh is a doctor who has been trying to upgrade his temporary work visa to permanent resident status for years. He worries that any kind of guest worker program for illegal immigrants will make it even harder for legal immigrants to get through the bureaucracy.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Tejvir Singh was born in India. Today, he is hematologist and oncologist practicing in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In his contribution to our series of commentaries on immigration, Dr. Singh makes the point that some immigrants seems to be left out of the current national debate.

Dr. TEJVIR SINGH (Hematologist, Oncologist, Council Bluffs, Iowa): Everybody seems to be focused on illegal immigration. I want to tell you the story of legal immigration. Fathoming the legal immigration maze is one of the most harrowing experiences you can endure. I have been in the U.S., along with my wife and daughter, since 1996.

We are both specialist doctors. We work in an underserved area and pay thousands of dollars in taxes every year. Our daughter has no recollection of the country she was born in. She does not speak the language and thinks she is as American as her friends in school. Our patients are just grateful that we are here. They don't ask for proof our citizenship. I'm glad they don't since we have none.

Not that I don't think it would make a difference to them. My original visa stipulated that I work in a physician shortage area for three years to qualify for a green card. My wife and I have done that, but each year only a certain number highly qualified professionals from each country are allowed to apply for green cards.

Since many highly qualified professionals come from India, there's a waiting list to apply. Our families accuse us of becoming too American. I'm trying to understand how I can be too American without being American. Each time we have tried to apply for permanent residence the system has failed us. The cases at the immigration service go back years. We have found ourselves at the back of the line again and again.

If a guest worker program is passed, I feel that the immigration service will become overwhelmed. Legal immigrants like us, who have waited patiently for years, will once again find ourselves at the back of the line. The new immigration bill should do away with the quota system of green cards for highly qualified professionals, who are needed to maintain the critical infrastructure in the country.

The world over, the U.S. is recognized as the place where hard work and excellence always prevail. Laws, which do not recognize excellence and hard work, have no place in our legal system. Maybe a bill should be passed which will improve the immigration service and equip it with extra manpower and resources. Otherwise, people like us may have to wait for decades before we see our green cards.

For my part, I'm waiting for the time when I will not just be too American but a real American. America has given me the opportunity to excel in my chosen field. I may never have had that chance in my home country. America is a country of optimism and hope. I know we will become Americans one day. We want the government to keep its promise to us and not make our green card a moving target.

I think that after being a law-abiding resident of the USA for so many years, my family's American dream should also be fulfilled. People who are born here are lucky, but, in the end, I think we may turn out be luckier, since, even without being born here, we have a chance to live here.

YDSTIE: Commentator Tejvir Singh live is Omaha.

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