Ann Massey Badmus has spent over 22 years working in immigration law. Her greatest takeaway from over two decades of experience? The national conversation surrounding immigration does not represent what she sees every single day. “We keep hearing more and more rhetoric that immigration is bad,” Badmus says. “Why are we hearing all these negative things when I’m dealing with people every day who are doing so much for the country—creating jobs, providing healthcare? It’s something we should respect, but instead people just hear that immigration takes away from our systems and causes us to lose money. And it’s the exact opposite.”
The rules are just not conducive to encouraging activities like starting a business.
Badmus, who used to own her own law firm and is now a partner at Scheef & Stone, a firm in North Texas, primarily works with professionals and entrepreneurs. Despite the many contributions immigrants make to their communities, the current immigration system is a series of delays and restrictions. “The rules are just not conducive to encouraging activities like starting a business,” she says, pointing out that an “investor visa,” requires a minimum $500,000 business investment. “There are plenty of folks who can start a business for less than half a million dollars, so we need reform to incorporate startups, to encourage foreign nationals to start businesses, and make it easier for them. It’s pretty risky—if they can’t keep legal status, why would they risk money to be here?”
The long wait for permanent residency is also detrimental to the professional development of immigrants—and our local economies. “You have people waiting years and years to get permanent residence through their employment, and that stunts their professional growth because they have to stay tied to that employer while they’re waiting five, six, seven years— sometimes longer. They’re just restricted.”
In an effort to change the conversation surrounding immigration, Badmus—whose husband is from Nigeria and owns a local engineering business with 10 employees—founded the Immigrant Journey Awards in 2011. The program highlights and celebrates local entrepreneurs, professionals, and immigration advocates in the North Texas area. Past recipients range from Anh Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant who runs Cindy’s Delicatessen, a popular Jewish deli in Dallas—(“Yes, Anh also jokes about it,” Badmus laughs)—to Patricia Moore, a Colombian native who has spent 20 years working in the United States, helping set up international businesses. The awards don’t come with a cash prize—just publicity and a keepsake plaque—but the community embraces the program. “They value it because it shows they’ve been recognized for their achievement[s],” Badmus says. “We have to highlight the benefits of immigration.”