MADE in the USA
(Movement with Advanced Degrees and Entrepreneurship)
Who am I?
In 2000 I came from Trinidad and Tobago (T & T) to pursue higher education. After my Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Applied Psychology I was invited to stay in the USA and receive a graduate education. My Doctoral degree in Learning, Technology & Culture with a cognate in Special Education was fully funded by the USA in six years. I am now asking to remunerate my education with service. I am currently teaching in higher education and heavily involved with a non-profit organization. I would like to continue to work legally in the USA.
What is preventing me from working legally in the USA?
1. I am independent. I came to the USA solely to pursue an education and have been have been living away from family. As a result, I do not have an immediate family member (a mother and father) to sponsor me.
2. I do not work for a large conglomerate company because my expertise lies in psychology, education, and the humanities, and community engagement and outreach. As a result, my skills are best suited to non-profit organizations and colleges. These institutions do not sponsor because (1) it can be a lengthy legal and expensive process and (2) it protects them from individuals who abandon the institution upon receiving permanent residence (a green card).
3. I have a limited time frame. Two months are provided after the Optional Practical Training (OPT) to locate a sponsoring position and to stay documented. Since all the positions I applied to, and the institutions that I currently work for do not sponsor, I was not able to be sponsored. As a result, I have to return to Trinidad and Tobago within this time frame in order to prevent from being out of status.
Do I have a job?
1. Yes, I have two jobs. The colleges that I work for want to keep me because I have excellent student evaluations and I have very good relations with faculty. In addition, my supervisors felt that if I had more time to establish myself as an early career scholar, they may consider providing a full time position.
2. I graduated in 2012 with my PhD. As a result, I am now beginning to polish my skills as an early career scholar in terms of refining my teaching skills, and building my research and service skills. If I am allowed to put this degree to use in the USA and actually work, I can provide similar returns for the investment that Americans provided to me for six years of graduate work.
Am I not taking away jobs from Americans?
1. When I was accepted into the university for my graduate education, they did not only accept me for my educational qualifications but also for my entrepreneurial spirit. My advisors saw that I founded a counseling group and managed a writing workshop for my colleagues. At my colleges, I am working along with faculty to revise my classes in such a way that students leave with a tangible item that proves that they are capable of doing the work. In addition, I wanted to revive the honor society at one of the colleges. Finally, my work with the non-profit organization included collaborations with academic institutions and other non-profit groups to provide mentorship and leadership development, counseling and support for LGBTQ people of color. This was my way of providing the necessary tools to Americans so they can be successful in their lives or give back in the same way the tools and opportunities were given to me during my undergraduate and graduate education.
2. The jobs I take are jobs that not the most enticing. For example, after my undergraduate education, I worked with students with severe and emotional behavioral disorders, who would throw chairs at me on a daily basis. Essentially I provided tools to this population who would otherwise not be contributing member of American society. I loved it. In my higher education classes, some of my students do not come from these backgrounds but I support and guide them to become future psychologists, behavioral scientists and social workers who will work with these populations. My services in fact facilitate and not hinder job creation and preparedness in the most disadvantaged areas.
So why do I need to work?
Besides paying for my living expenses, I have vast amount of student debt from my undergraduate education. My private education loan is $70,000 US which I have recently begun to pay off. If I return to Trinidad and Tobago, I will default on the loan and yet again, the USA will encounter another loss of money that they can inevitably make if I stay to work.
So why can’t I get married?
Yes, I can get married but I prefer to marry someone I love and who is ready to be married. Any other way, I am committing marriage fraud either for the USA or to myself.
Do I consider myself American?
I do. I feel the same way as immigrants who came here to work except they had no restrictions, and they had to fight in some ways for an education. Instead, I was given a graduate education but I am restricted from working. Also, I have been in USA since 2000 and I have assimilated into American culture. As a result, I want a chance to give back the legal way, the right way.
What do I need?
I need a work permit that allows me to stay here documented in the USA. This work permit should be considered for individuals whose graduate education has been fully funded by the USA, who can demonstrate that they are giving back to American society either as an entrepreneur, or through civic involvement, and are currently working for colleges/organizations who do not sponsor either for a H1B or permanent residence (e.g. green card).
Is there a bill in Congress that currently addresses these issues?
Yes, there is a bill in Congress that has been put forth as the Merit Based Visa. However, it may not go into effect until 2018 (http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/jul/18/senates-immigration-bill-has-first-us-worker-visas/). We need a temporary bill passed in Congress NOW until the Merit Based Visa goes into effect.
Americans have been proud of items made in the USA. The income generated from these products stay with Americans. The only difference here is that we are human beings. Americans have invested money in educating us for our graduate education. We have been MADE in the USA too. Don’t you think there should be laws in place for us to stay here to work? Should we not have permits that grant us residence so we can generate income and jobs for Americans too? I am sure there are others like me who feel similarly and we would like Americans to hear our voices as we have been proud products of an American education - MADE in the USA.
Please consider signing the petition to tell our immigration reform senators that we need legal action now to create a system to allow myself and others to stay documented and work to pay off the investment that Americans have freely given us.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are in a similar situation where you have:
1. to return to your native country in less than 12 months;
2. an advanced degree and/or you are an entrepreneur and your graduate education has been fully funded by the United States ;
3. no institution that is willing to sponsor you for a work permit or permanent residence;
4. been in the United States for more than six years.