shutterstock_71304997As a native Hoosier and Indiana University graduate, I have always loved March Madness – the idea that any team could find a place and then potentially win or, at the very least, upset, the tournament is exciting and inspiring.  Additionally, I love lists.  Competition and the fast pace of both the games and the eliminations make March Madness a unique and inclusive sporting experience.  That said, this year was disappointing for Indiana basketball, and without my team participating, I have not been as involved.  With a bit of perspective, and inspired by another Hoosier, David Letterman, I have been pondering the top ten similarities between March Madness and U.S. immigration.  Drum roll please…

10. Competition – In March Madness, 12th seeded Harvard can eliminate 5th seeded Cincinnati; in the immigration March Madness (aka H-1B filing season), an Art History graduate from an unranked regional college could beat out a Nuclear Engineer from MIT.

9.  Randomness – In March Madness, just because you made it out of the first round, don’t expect to make it to the final four.  In immigration, just because you got picked in the H-1B lottery doesn’t mean you’ll survive adjudication.

8.  Seeds/Preferences – March Madness organizes the 68 participating teams into regions and seeds; the highest ranked teams play the lowest ranked teams giving the teams with the best records the best chance to make it to the final four.  Immigration has preferences and chargeability; some preferences move faster than others, and chargeability means that some nationalities “beat” others by virtue of lower demand.

7. Cinderella stories – Dayton defeats Ohio State!  DREAMers – those brought to the U.S. as children can apply for work permits under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)!

6.  Athletes are the stars – in March Madness the players and coaches make the magic happen.  In immigration, athletes and most well known artists, actors and musicians get access to O or P visas–not subject to the same numerical limitations or delays as H-1Bs.

5.  Politics run high – no matter what IU’s seed is or chance of advancing, I could never pick Michigan or Purdue to beat my alma mater.  Just like some members of Congress don’t want to hand others the “win” on immigration reform.

4.  The President weighs in – Barack-etology had Duke and Ohio State advancing.  He didn’t make that happen. President Obama’s views on immigration reform legislation are simply not authoritative because he isn’t in Congress.

3.  The cards are unfairly stacked – Consider the chances of 16th seeded Weber State beating #1 seeded Arizona.  Sure, it’s possible, but very difficult.  For a foreign national to get through the labor certification process, an employer must show that no U.S. worker is available, qualified and willing to take the job.

2.  Uniquely American – college sports played at this level with the amount of marketing and revenue only happens in America – and we’re also the only country with this mismatched patchwork of laws and policies masquerading as an immigration system.

1.  Even if you aren’t interested, you can’t escape either one – office bracket pools, televised games showing everywhere, social networking blasts with comments and commentary – How could you not have heard that Duke was upset by Mercer?  Same with immigration – articles, blogs, social commentary – our immigration system is constantly the subject of media attention.

At least with March Madness, on April 7, 2014, we will have a national champion.  With immigration – the madness isn’t contained to one month.  Without action by Congress, U.S. immigration madness will continue.

Written by Anastasia Tonello, AILA Secretary