Facing Huge Population Growth, U.S. Must Get Tough on Visa Overstays

Published on January 11th, 2016

A well-written L.A. Weekly story about the local Night Lights band provided some interesting insights into the abyss of U.S. immigration laws. The four-member band includes an American and nationals from Mexico, Japan and Norway. The Norwegian drummer came to the U.S. on an F-1 visa, and the Japanese guitar player on an F-2 visa given to children of F-1 recipients. Along with the Mexican front man, all three are part of the controversial Optional Practical Training Program.

With time running short on their authorized durations of stay, the band members have decided that the O-1 visa granted to artists with “extraordinary ability” is the visa to pursue. At this point, their story breaks into good news/bad news.

The good news: An O visa is, according to the legal expert the story cites, difficult to obtain. The petition requires hundreds of pages of documentation, and recommendation letters from recognized artists in their field. More good news: U.S. Immigration and Citizenship officers have toughened up on who they consider highly regarded.

Visa overstays will contribute to 700 percent immigrant population growth by 2060.

The bad news: the O represents another opportunity for individuals who enter on nonimmigrant visas to change their status. While the band’s performances have been well received, no reasonable case can be made that its members are extraordinarily talented or that they couldn’t pursue their musical careers in their native Norway, Japan or Mexico, all of which have booming popular music markets. Furthermore, the O visa has a bad history. In 2012, Playboy’s 2010 Miss November Playmate and Hugh Hefner’s former concubine Shera Bechard received an O visa.

Understandably, the young men want to stay. To their credit, they appear willing to take the appropriate legal steps to remain. But when visas expire – theirs or anyone else’s – the holders must go home unless change of status or an extended stay has been approved. That’s the deal they agreed to. If they’re allowed to stay, as the Obama administration recently proposed, then more population pressures are created both immediately and down the road through chain migration.

Simply stated, nonimmigrant visa holders like Night Lights should be encouraged to go home, especially if there’s no reasonable fear of persecution in the countries they’re returning to. Otherwise, as shown in this chart, by 2060, the United States’ immigrant population could increase 700 percent to 78.2 million from 9.6 million in 1970.

Those are numbers the U.S. can ill-afford to bear if there’s any interest in achieving a sustainable society that preserves the environment and a good quality of life for all.

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