USCIS, a Judge, and the NY Times Put the Right Spin on a Ping Pong Case

By David North, November 18, 2012

All too often we hear about the heart-rending story of the individual alien, often illegal, who loses a battle with the immigration-management system. The tale is about the high school valedictorian who wants to become a priest or a physician (for instance) who is about to be deported. But we never hear about how many others would have to be granted legal status if this one case were to become a precedent.

In other words there is a journalistic focus on the attractive individual alien, with no thought of the larger picture.

But the sports section of the November 15 New York Times got the story right regarding one individual athlete, a newsworthy applicant for a green card.

The alien is Afshin Noroozi, an Olympic-class Iranian ping pong player. He had wanted one of the 40,000 or so "workers of extraordinary ability" permanent resident alien visas in the employment-based system, but was ruled not qualified by both USCIS and, on appeal, by Manhattan district judge Paul Engelmayer.

These are visas in the EB-1 category, and are supposed to be used by really outstanding potential immigrants, with Nobel Prize winners usually cited as perfect examples of what Congress had in mind when it created the category. More than 99.99 percent of the slots are filled by non-Nobel laureates, of course, by a few people with widely recognized skills in science and the arts, and by many others who qualify as outstanding professors or as multinational executives, and by the spouses and children of the principal aliens.

The judge noted that Noroozi, while he probably was a highly skilled player, was ranked 284th in the world. The Times reported that the judge ruled:

A finding in Noroozi's favor would effectively oblige the immigration service to grant extraordinary ability visas to every one of the international table tennis players ranked ahead of him, along with the top 284 performers (minus Americans) in every other sport." [emphasis added]

So all three, USCIS, the Judge, and the Times rose above their concern with the individual concerned, and recognized the bigger picture as well. This should happen more often.

Election Update: In an earlier blog of mine on how the elections will impact the composition of the House and Senate immigration subcommittees, I noted that Congressman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), a member of the House panel, was in a tight race for his seat in northern California. It became clear recently that he lost the race, so that there are now two GOP vacancies on the subcommittee: Lungren's and that of the subcommittee chair, Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), who had chosen not to run for re-election.