An American Dream on Hold

The immigration pickle we are in is supposedly being debated in the preprimary beanbag in Iowa and New Hampshire. But all I’m hearing is lowest denominator crap about keeping out nasty Mexicans.

Lost in the mush mongering is the diminishing magnetism of America to the best and brightest in the world who are getting the fuzzy message that they are welcome to come as tourists or students but if they expect to stay for a career they’ll have to beat a system that is rigged against the honest and successful would-be immigrant.

I have witnessed this messed up system first hand as my used machine tool business Graff-Pinkert has tried to get Martin Whitfield, a talented Wickman rebuilder a solid immigration status.

When we first started the process to get Martin legal status we were told by everybody we asked that is was impossible unless he won the immigration lottery (the U.S. actually runs a lottery and admits 55,000 people a year who get lucky) Martin would have to wiggle in as a worker who was unobtainable in the American labor pool or as a trainee for a job in which he had unique qualifications. As a Wickman specialist he really had those rare credentials, but we felt the need to hire an immigration attorney who understood the red tape and could navigate Martin through the morass.

The attorney did manage to guide Martin into an 18 month stay at Graff-Pinkert where he proved to be a valuable addition, but then he had to go back to England for three months in order to jump through the next immigration hoop. Graff-Pinkert paid the lawyer’s bill and Martin’s living expenses in Britain while he waited for another window to open.

We were dancing the immigration cha cha cha – three steps forward, three steps back – and each step cost a pretty penny to the legals.

This year we decided to devote fewer resources to Wickman rebuilding and were reluctant to pay many thousands of dollars to the legalistas. We gave Martin several months advanced knowledge of our decision so he could find another position in the U.S., but he was unable to find anybody to hire him with his immigration baggage. He could have found 20 willing employers without the visa issue.

Now Martin is headed back to England to start his quest once again to get to America. If he can find a company in England with an American manufacturing arm, he has a lever to reenter the country. He has a few possibilities.

Meanwhile, his furniture is in storage and his kids are out of school. His spacious apartment in the Chicago suburbs is empty, and his American dream is on hold.

What a country.

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