Why Does U.S. Policy Reject Immigrant Talent? ‘Why Are We Economically Restricting Ourselves?’ American Lawyer Asks

Idaho native Richard L. Ruth, the managing principal of Ruth Law, became an immigration attorney after many years in labor law. Today, he has 20 years of experience under his belt. “I find the practice of immigration law extremely rewarding,” he says. “With litigation, I won a lot of cases, but it just wasn’t in my heart to constantly be battling.” These days, Ruth helps his clients obtain visas so they can start building productive lives in America.

One of Ruth’s clients, a Colombian architect, persevered through years of red tape to finally attain legal status for himself and his family. The architect sent Ruth a note to express thanks. “I remember showing it to my wife, and I said, ‘This is why I do immigration, this is why I love what I do.’ Just out of the blue, you can get an email from this grateful family and it makes you realize that, just like people who’d gotten off the boat at Ellis Island a century ago, here’s someone who knows what’s going to happen to his family, who knows what’s going to happen to their children and grandchildren when they point back to finally getting their citizenship in the United States. You have no idea what they’re going to contribute to the United States down the road that will be great, and you helped that. That’s just something that gives me an immense sense of satisfaction: To know I helped this family achieve a dream.”

It’s an economic issue. Why are we not tapping into these people to grow our economy?

Ruth wants to see immigration reform that reconsiders the process through which immigration petitions are reviewed. “I think it’s important for government officials to understand that they’re dealing with people’s lives,” Ruth says. “These just aren’t decisions made in a vacuum on a piece of paper. I think anti-immigrant philosophy has worked its way into many positions in the government. People are evaluating less from a positive standpoint — does this person meet the requirements? — but from a negative standpoint: Let’s kick these people out, these people aren’t worthy.”

Another challenge is the way immigration policy currently holds back economic development. “First and foremost, a limited amount of opportunities are available for people to immigrate,” Ruth says, noting that the United States especially needs high-skilled workers. He finds the plight of international students particularly frustrating. “We spend so much time and money to give them such expertise, and then when they graduate with tremendous knowledge, what are we going to tell them? Yeah, sorry, we have strict limits on the visas that are available for you. We don’t want you. Go back to your home country.”

And that, Ruth believes, is self-defeating. Those highly trained students who have graduated from American institutions end up returning to their home countries where they compete against U.S. businesses. “It’s an economic issue. Why are we not tapping into these people to grow our economy? To make our country a technological innovator? Why are we economically restricting ourselves, and them in the process, by basically turning them away after we educate them? That’s certainly one of the biggest economic factors I see with immigration, and why reform is necessary.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…