Scott Borene loves to see his clients get their green cards. But before any clients get the green, he has to see a lot of red.
“There is no other country in the world that has an immigration system as complicated as ours,” Borene says, adding that many lawyers consider immigration law second only to IRS tax code in complexity.“Some people think,‘Why don’t people go to the post office and get their citizenship?’ But those days are 100 years ago. People hire accountants to help with tax forms, and the 1040 is 100 times more simple than the simplest immigration form. It’s all red tape.”
For more than 25 years Borene, who is the president of Borene Law Firm in Minneapolis and a 2006 Super Lawyer, has worked to get top-level foreign-born doctors, researchers and professionals permission to study and work in the United States. According to Borene, these highly educated immigrants play a much larger role in the U.S. economy than most Americans realize.
“Of doctorate holders in science working in the United States, 51 percent of engineers and 45 percent in life sciences are foreign born,” he says. “In universities and research hospitals, as much as 39 percent of computer science faculty and 35 percent of engineering faculty are foreign born. Math and science in the U.S. create the demand for these educated individuals and the government creates the red tape.”
Unfortunately, a Ph.D. does not guarantee a green card — in some cases Borene has to enlist the cream of the academic crop to speak on behalf of clients.
“We have had Nobel Prize winners write letters on behalf of our clients to say, ‘These people are great in their field, they show exemplary work and I know what I am talking about — I won a Nobel Prize,’” he says, laughing. “So usually it is just finding out what is the best path to take or the best option to go with.”
And when Borene is able to find the right path and gain entry for advanced-degree immigrants, everyone benefits.
“[They are] essential to the growth and success of our globally competitive businesses,” Borene says. “But the average American doesn’t get that. They think all 12 million immigrants here are illegal and picking lettuce. Advanced degree immigrants are making the U.S. more competitive.”
Borene says it is hard to venture a guess as to what will happen with immigration reform at the federal level, but he is adamant that changes are necessary.
“You can’t argue with the economic reality of supply and demand for the 12 million workers who are in essential occupations,” he says. “But they don’t have the documents they need to get them out of the shadows so they can put their kids in school and pay taxes and go to the doctor for immunizations and get their driver’s licenses. It is a lot better to know people are here and have them be part of the system.”