The United States of America was founded by immigrants and continues to welcome them. Not only do immigrants continue a long tradition, they also support the American economy, in many cases performing jobs that Americans do not wish to do. Without the labor of illegal immigrants, many industries would suffer.
However, it is important to remember that we are fighting a war on terrorism and border security is essential to keep our nation and its people safe, which is our number one priority.
It is also in America's tradition to respect and uphold the law. Although illegal immigrants contribute to our economy, they also in turn harm parts of our infrastructure. Many illegal immigrants use our hospitals, schools and other public institutions without paying taxes. Therefore, they utilize resources to which they do not contribute.
How can America continue adding to its melting pot while simultaneously upholding laws that prohibit many from legally remaining in the United States?
On May 15, 2006, President George W. Bush announced a new plan that would help resolve this friction. This plan proposes a guest worker program that would offer a path to citizenship while avoiding deportation while simultaneously securing our borders.
The President's plan would not automatically grant citizenship to any worker, nor would it allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship without penalty. His plan specifically states that immigrants would be required to pay back taxes, learn the English language and pay a penalty for initially breaking our laws. However, once the immigrants complete this process, we would not only have a stronger economy we would also have a better record of who is living in our country. This re-strengthens America's resolve to keep her people and land safe.
This plan most affects Mexico and other Latin American countries. However, that does not mean Bangladesh and its citizens are excluded from its benefits. First off, the tens of thousands of Bangladeshis who currently live in the United States and are petitioning for other family members to join them will be safer as a result of this proposal. Additionally, there are Bangladeshi citizens who are currently in the United States illegally. President Bush's plan offers them a chance to legalize their status and contribute more fully to the American economy, society and culture.
It should be noted that President Bush's proposal is not yet in effect. Currently the Senate and House of Representatives are debating separate bills. These bills, along with the President's proposed plan, all have differing solutions. It is important to remember that the final result will incorporate aspects from each of these plans.
In short, we do not know yet how Bangladesh will be affected by a new Guest Worker Program, but as soon as a new law is passed, we will be announcing the details here in Dhaka, and will be able to answer the public's questions.
In the meantime, we continue to issue temporary visas for visitors. We issued 1,000 more temporary visas in 2005 than we did in 2004, and the numbers for 2006 are rising.
Thanks to our outreach programs, more students are better prepared for their interviews, and more student visas are being issued. If you are interested in knowing how to be better prepared for a student visa interview, contact the American Center, or ask your school to invite Embassy officers to visit. We want and welcome qualified students to study in America.
The number of new immigrants rises sharply each year. In 2005, we issued twice as many immigrant visas as we did in 2003.
Bangladesh is one of the most enthusiastic participants in the Diversity Visa (Visa Lottery) program. Each year, more and more DV applicants are found qualified for the visas. Unfortunately, many Bangladeshi applicants apply through expensive agents who claim to be experts but actually have little knowledge of the regulations. We continue to encourage Bangladesh citizens to participate in the Diversity Visa program, but strongly advise them to read the regulations first and submit their entries themselves to avoid being taken in by dishonest individuals.
The author of the article is the US Ambassador to Bangladesh