We watch the news each day and we see a common theme in America: Marginalized groups want what they deserve: to receive the same treatment and protections as allowed by law, which translates into equal opportunities. The reality is that minorities and women do not receive the same treatment and that the law does not apply equally to all.

That is also true in the world of immigration law, except it has traditionally been based on country of origin. There are quotas on green cards per country for example, which if you come from a highly populous country like India or China means you have to wait infinitely longer than someone with the same qualifications as someone from a smaller country, who can get their green card years before you do. What about the Muslim Ban under President Trump, which targeted nationals from countries that were predominantly Muslim (although not the ones which are strong allies of the U.S., like fundamentally Muslim Pakistan, of course).

Our immigration policy has a long history of being discriminatory, like the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended Chinese immigration for 61 years and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization. So you may ask “What else is new?”, or even “What does this have to do with me?” My answer is that as long as America continues to apply the law differently to different people, it is not just and the very foundation we stand on is going to collapse.

Here is a modern-day example of the completely nonsensical and discriminatory policy concerning a question that was born out of the corona pandemic: “Who do we let in?” At first, the borders were essentially closed (not just physical borders but airports) to all but these individuals (which is the only thing that has remained consistent): U.S. citizens/green card holders and their spouses and children; crew members and; diplomats. When all other nationals were allowed to start traveling to the U.S., the government decided to choose who to exclude or not.

What came next was a series of presidential proclamations blocking direct entry, first China, then the Schengen Area countries (contiguous European countries), then the UK and Ireland, followed by Iran and later Brazil (and now India to some degree). While the virus spread worldwide, the U.S. appeared to be choosing countries that were definitely suffering greatly (Italy and Spain principally) and then by association, all their neighboring countries, as the EU is(was) free-flowing between member states.

This made sense to a certain degree, but at the same time, approximately 163 countries were not restricted and nationals residing in those countries were then allowed to travel to the U.S. For those in restricted countries, they were allowed to travel to a third, non-restricted country and be there for 2 weeks and then enter the U.S. (still the case). So things were already quite muddled and then they got infinitely more convoluted: The government announced the National Interest Exception (“NIE”), a series of criteria which, if one qualified, would allow them to get permission to travel to the U.S. within thirty days.  The NIE required an application be filed through the U.S. embassies in each country and were very useful for business people, entrepreneurs and professionals stuck overseas who needed to return to their jobs or carry out projects in the U.S. that were helpful to the U.S. economy.

Finally, the justification of the economic benefit to the U.S. once again ruled supreme and it appeared that some logic was being applied, until…President Biden gutted the NIE, and made it applicable only in cases where the applicant’s presence in the U.S. was directly related to projects in the 12 designated sectors of the U.S. economy directly related to “critical infrastructure”. US Embassy websites changed overnight, many clearly stating that the exception would no longer apply to executives and managers seeking simply to return to the U.S. to run the U.S. companies they had received visas to run. It was almost an entire about-face in terms of policy, with no clear reasoning. No world event had occurred that had caused this sort of proportional response, and suddenly many important executives, managers, and professionals, as well as artists and entertainers, were left out in the cold again, and contemplating the cumbersome, expensive and inconvenient triangulation through a non-restricted country in order to enter the U.S.

Where the law is supposed to be clear and transparent in order for people to know how to follow it and take the proper actions, it has become an improvised joke with serious implications, causing foreign-funded U.S. businesses to struggle or go under, frustrations caused leading to much-needed investments to be pulled out and plans to enter the U.S. market re-contemplated, and America no longer looking like a beacon of transparency and the best destination for investment. It has caused people who want to do things correctly to play cloak and dagger, triangulating through other countries to gain entry while their colleagues who live in non-restricted countries come straight through. The countries on the restricted list happen to include some of the biggest investors in the U.S. economy too, so we are taking food out of our own mouths. It is discriminatory for no reason, a non-sensical policy that creates a constantly moving target and that destroys any semblance of transparency.

Worst of all, this “policy” which was supposedly based on health-related concerns (to stop the unnecessary spread of the disease) has been a fallacy from the beginning. As soon as the doors opened for foreign travel, with no requirement except a covid test or a quarantine requirement imposed by a specific state, and the countries chosen for restriction have remained on the list, whether they exhibited more or less covid cases was never reviewed or taken into consideration. It feels like a slap in the face for people of those restricted countries…because it is. It is simply another discriminatory policy with no real rationale or logical underpinning, discrimination implemented and applied by the U.S. government, showing us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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