I am an Immigrant

June 23, 2020

After hearing the news of the Presidential Proclamation, that suspends certain categories of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, our COO James Bell, wanted to share a very personal message.

” I am a new American, plain and simple. I’m not a British-American or a British ex-pat, just American.  But I’m also an immigrant.”

I chose to become an American citizen after living in the country for 10 years.  I came here from Scotland on a work visa and fell in love with this bold, amazing country where anything felt possible if you worked hard enough for it.  I bought a home.  I got married.  I vote in elections and celebrate Thanksgiving.  I am a new American, plain and simple. I’m not a British-American or a British ex-pat, just American.  But I’m also an immigrant.  I grew up in another culture and had an opportunity to come to the States and lend my talents and my drive to help build the U.S. to contribute to its economic growth.

Not everyone who travels to the U.S. on work-related visas stays and become citizens.  In fact, most do not.  Every year, 300,000 talented and hard-working international college students and young adults come to the United States for unique opportunities to temporarily live, work, or train on a J1 visa before returning to their home countries. And that opportunity has now been ripped out of their hands.

That is a lot of missed opportunities. And not just for those idealists who just want to come here and work hard, dreaming about returning home as better versions of themselves personally and professionally – it’s an opportunity that America is missing out on as well.

I agree with Amazon and Apple:

Amazon opposes the Administration’s short-sighted decision to pause high-skill visa programs. Welcoming the best & the brightest global talent is critical to America’s economic recovery. We will continue to support these programs & efforts to protect the rights of immigrants.

– Amazon via twitter [twitter.com/amazon_policy]

Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity, and hope in the enduring promise of the American Dream. There is no new prosperity without both. Deeply disappointed by this proclamation, 

– Chief Executive Tim Cook via tweet. [bit.ly/3doNOT1

They are speaking about the H1 Visa program, speaking out against the false narrative that immigrants take jobs away from Americans.  I would add my voice to theirs and highlight the J1 program.  Cultural exchange programs allow for an explosion of creativity and innovation, and they do this in the simplest of ways.  They allow ordinary people with extraordinary ambition to come to the U.S. and learn American culture and American ways of business. They put Americans in close contact with people from other cultures, who have different ways of perceiving the world, and with that contact comes the free exchange of ideas.  It is by the free exchange of ideas that immigrants learn American ideals, and at the same time, allow Americans to see the world from a new and different perspective.  

I sincerely hope the Administration will soon recognize the good that comes from exchange programs, that ultimately these programs create American jobs. International talent creates jobs by serving as the seed that gets planted, growing innovation that drives product development that drives consumerism that drives job creation to meet demand.

Our j-1 visa holders do not take jobs away from Americans; they never have.  These Visa programs have been in play since the 1960s, and if visa holders were taking jobs away from Americans, surely someone in the past 60 years would have noticed this before now. 

James Bell | COO | Alliance Abroad