A little over a week ago, the law firm of Wildes & Weinberg announced that it had successfully helped Venezuelan Miss Universe 2009, Stefania Fernandez, obtain a greed card. Meanwhile, it appears the Mexican Miss Universe 2010, Jimena Navarrete, was seen “chatting away cozily with immigration attorney Michael Wildes. “Fernandez joins Dayana Mendoza, Miss Universe 2008, on an elite list of celebrities and tastemakers that have relied on Wildes & Weinberg, P.C. for its expert counsel,” boasts the website of Wildes & Weinber. “Stefania Fernandez, Miss Universe 2009, has been approved for a green card based on her extraordinary ability and global philanthropic efforts.”
It’s great that Fernandez will be bringing her talents, beauty, and philanthropic work to the U.S., however, what’s unfortunate is that many of her fellow Latin Americans have been waiting for decades just to get their foot in the door.
The law gives preference to categories of immigrants who are related to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and immigrants who have already secured employment. With the exception of beauty queens, entertainers, and those few who possess “extraordinary abilities,” most immigrants who don’t have a job offer or family in the U.S. get the door shut in their faces. The utter lack of legal channels explains why so many migrants enter the U.S. illegally.
Even migrants who fit into family- or employment-based visas don’t have it easy. As of September 2009 there are over 4.5 million applicants who have been waiting for a U.S. green card for several years. More specifically, 4.2 million foreigners have been waiting to be reunited with their families in the U.S. and 360,000 applicants for employment-based green cards. Employment-based visa wait times start at about five years for most applicants. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center notes that for family members seeking U.S. residence, the wait can be anywhere from five to 22 years:
That’s not to suggest Miss Universe should have to wait 22 years to obtain a green card herself. If anything, the immigration system should be reformed to allow for a more flexible and expedited visa system. The U.S. certainly shouldn’t automatically grant a visa to anyone who applies, but current visa quotas are static and outdated. Whether the economy demands more or less workers, the backlogs persist. In the meantime, talented workers get frustrated and look elsewhere for opportunities, families are kept apart, and more people resort to entering the U.S. without proper documentation.