Documenting the Spatial Practices of Global Migration

Needless Complexities in the Visa System Hinder Migration Management

Category : BRIEFLY NOTED 11/04/2009

This was written by David North, October 13, 2009 in the Center for Immigration studies‘ blog

One of the major sources of illegal immigration is the flow of persons into the U.S. with valid temporary visas who later (often quickly) drop out of legal status. Tourists (usually on B-1 visas) and foreign students (on either F-1 or J-1 visas) produce most of this type of illegal immigrants, the visa-abusers, often called visa-overstayers.

One of the reasons it is hard to control these flows relates to the proliferation of different visa classes (mostly demanded by lobbyists of one kind or another). Every time a new visa class is created by Congress, everyone handling visas — either in our overseas embassies or at our ports of entry — has to learn an additional set of rules regarding who may, and who may not, obtain and/or use this visa.

The current system is wildly complicated, as the following listing of visas illustrates:

A-1, A-2, A-3; B-1, B-2; C-1, C-2, C-3; E-1, E-2, E-3, EB-5; F-1, F-2, F-3; G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5, GT; H-1B, H-1-B1; H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, H-4; I-1; J-1, J-2; K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4; L-1, L-2; M-1, M-2, M-3; N-1, N-2, N-3, N-4, N-5, N-6, N-7; O-1, O-2, O-3; P-1, P-2, P-3, P-4; Q-1; R-1, R-2; S-1; T-1, T-2, T-3, T-4, TD, TN; V-1, V-2, V-3; WB, WT.

That listing, from Wikipedia, has a total of 69 subclasses organized around 21 larger classes identified by letters of the alphabet. The system is hard to follow because of differing definitions by different agencies; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whose staff at the ports of entry examine (if briefly) these documents has a different list of 69 subclasses organized around 20 letter classes; while the State Department has a third list of 29 subclasses (including many merged ones) and 24 letters. Each of the two longer lists has categories that the other longer list ignores (or defines away).

To give an example of the usual complexity of the system — and a contrast to it — let’s look at the visas available to diplomats and international organization employees on one hand, and international journalists on the other.

There are three classes of diplomatic visas, with A-1 being for ambassadors and other ranking people and their families, A-2, for lesser diplomats and their families, and A-3, for the servants of the first two classes. Then there are five classes (G-1 through G-5) for people working for international organizations, their families, and their servants. Then there are seven N classes for people connected with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Finally, DHS — but not Wikipedia — recognizes two more N class nonimmigrants, N-8 (parents of international organization special immigrants) and N-9, children of the same people. That’s 17 different categories for various kinds of diplomats and international organization employees, and their dependents.

Happily, foreign journalists, their families, and their servants are all lumped together in class I-1.

Some of these categories are rarely used. For example, statistics from the State Department’s Visa Office show that there was no usage, it is sad to say, in the years 2004-2008 of the S-1 visa for “informants possessing information on Criminal Activity or Terrorism.” Similarly, there is a special visa category (M-3) for people living in border regions of Canada or Mexico who want to attend, as commuters, vocational training schools, such as in hairdressing, in the U.S. That category had three users in 2007 and none in 2008.

There are a huge number of nonimmigrant visas issued annually; the total, according to the Visa Office, went from a little over 5,000,000 in 2004 to more than 6,600,000 in 2008.

Unless the business of issuing visas is to become a rubber-stamp activity, it would be helpful to severely condense and streamline the visa categories available to potential visitors to this country.

Exhibition: Status Report

Category : EVENT 10/05/2009


Status Report presented by the BRIC Rotunda Gallery (September 03 October 10, 2009) showed work by contemporary Mexican and Latino artists, highlighting the varied ways that artists have examined the themes of immigration, the U. S./Mexican border, and work. Exhibiting artists – based in Brooklyn and greater New York, the West Coast, and Mexico – included Margarita Cabrera, Sergio de la Torre and Vicky Funari, Christina Fernandez, Coco Fusco, Erika Harrsch, Pedro Lasch, Delilah Montoya, and Dulce Pinzón.

my favorite image is this one by Delilah Montoya “Humane Borders Water Station”, 2004. Archival Digital photographic print mounted on aluminum.

Remade in America

Category : BRIEFLY NOTED 06/04/2009

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 11.57.46 AM

another fantastic interactive map published by the NY Times. Remade America, a series about the newest immigrants and their impact on American institutions continues to impress with beautiful graphics and well researched stories.

Day Labor Commission

Category : BRIEFLY NOTED 05/04/2009
(Image: NY Times)

Last week, the Temporary Commission on Day Laborer Job Centers in NYC released a report which is a culmination of over 2 years of work between city officials, advocates and other interested parties regarding day laborers in NYC. The report puts forth a number of recommendations, the first of which is the creation of job centers for day laborers throughout the city. While there are no detailed plans for how the city plans to achieve the various recommendations, the report does represent a good first step toward recognizing the issues surrounding day laborers and a commitment towards working with interested parties to manage this growing population.

Biopolitics of Migration

Category : EVENT 04/04/2009


The recent conference on migration at Columbia University, organized by the Comittee on Global Thought was a little heavy on the academic side. Of the many comments, discussions and badly designed powerpoints, two lessons stuck out for me. First, as Demetrios Papademetriou, President of the Migration Policy Institute pointed out, immigration policy in the United States favors family reunion over immigration for qualified workers. I never heard a policy maker express so directly what most of my friends have experienced. H1B applications have become a nerve wrecking lottery, where in only a window of 3 or 4 days, all visas for qualified persons are handed out. A green card through marriage is about a third of the cost of the now popular EB1 -the “genius green card”. The emphasis on family reunion invites critique regarding the enormous costs for integration.

The other lesson learned was that not enough researchers are looking at the issue of ‘rescaling’ namely what we are interested: Breaking immigration policies down to the local level. There is a great variety of examples, where cities are taking the issue into their own hands. Monica Varsanyi, Professor at John Jay College pointed out the good and the ugly of this “Immigration policing through the backdoor” Her working paper can be found here.