A limo driver's route to citizenship: Why merit-based immigration works

A limo driver's route to citizenship: Why merit-based immigration works
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I use the same livery company in Washington, but I recently met a driver I had never ridden with before. We were discussing funny stories about work. I told him I was writing a book about my experiences, and he said he had just experienced a funny story while driving two young medical doctors.

The women he picked up were on their way to a medical conference on the topic of kidney treatment and transplant. Both were dressed in their medical white coats, with stethoscopes wrapped around their necks. During the ride, he said, they were short and abusive, complaining about the route and ordering him to speed up. They announced that they were doctors and late to a very important conference.

The driver overheard the doctors talking about an issue they needed help in understanding regarding kidney transplantation; they decided to call their professor. He told them they did not have time to talk about it but suggested that they call his doctoral student, who could explain their question. One of the doctors in the back seat phoned the student, as suggested — and the driver’s phone rang.


Turns out their driver is a medical doctor from Sudan who is here on a “green card,” completing his doctoral degree in kidney transplantation. He works as a livery driver from 4 a.m. to noon, to earn extra money to continue his research after work.

Of course, the two doctor-passengers were astonished to discover that their driver is also a doctor — and was the very person that their professor suggested  they call with their question. The driver introduced himself and told the doctors that if they wanted their question answered fully, then they should attend his lecture the next day at the conference they were attending.

Needless to say, the two doctors were floored and embarrassed by their behavior and condescension, left stammering apologies. They never expected a medical doctor would be moonlighting as a livery driver, to further his education.

I, too, was floored by his work ethic and his humility. He said there is no doubt that those two young doctors will never forget their ride. This summer, the doctor/livery driver will become a U.S. citizen. I told him that our country welcomes him and thanks him for the contributions he has already made to America.

Never judge a book by its cover. In fact, never judge at all.


The immigration lesson of this hardworking doctor, who played by the immigration rules and was patient and deserving, is that he was rewarded with citizenship. He is the first to tell you that merit-based immigration is worth the wait — and is fair and just.

President Donald Trump’s five-point immigration policy supports a merit-based system that will work for what we need and for those who are deserving:

It restores integrity to America’s exploited asylum process. Loopholes in U.S. immigration laws are driving a flood of human smuggling and other fraudulent activities along the nation’s southern border. President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE wants to expedite relief for legitimate asylum-seekers — and send those who abuse the  system home promptly. 

It modernizes the legal immigration process to protect American workers. About 70 percent of immigrants who come to the United States today are admitted based on family relationships or through a visa lottery — a system that favors random chance over the skills our economy needs. Through a point-based merit system, the president’s plan increases the number of legal immigrants selected based on skill or merit from 12 percent to 57 percent. The plan also has layers of protection for American jobs and wages, including recruitment requirements, displacement prohibitions, and wage floors.

We must uphold our promise of Special Visas (SIVs) to war zone translators who worked with U.S. and NATO  troops during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as providing financial and housing assistance to individuals and families who have emigrated to the United States under the SIV program.

It promotes national unity.  The president’s plan is designed to attract immigrants who are ready to integrate into America’s melting pot. Before being able to apply, green card applicants must pass a U.S. civics exam and demonstrate English proficiency. The plan also gives priority to young applicants who are likely to build long-term ties and contribute to our society over their lifetimes.

It prioritizes the immediate families of U.S. citizens and new immigrants. Spouses and children of U.S. citizens and initiating immigrants should be at the front of the line to obtain a green card. The president’s plan prioritizes immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

It increases diversity and equality.  No matter where in the world someone is born or who their relatives are, if they want to become American, they should face the same standard as anyone else applying. The “Build America Visa” will use a clear, fair point-based criteria — one that prizes extraordinary achievement and potential to contribute to our nation — in order to determine who should be issued a green card for permanent residence in the United States.

The American dream is alive and well in 2020, and the story of the doctor/livery driver bears witness to it. 

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.