Bieber case highlights loopholes in visa rules
BY JOE GUZZARDI February 7, 2014 11:52AM
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:17AM
Canadian-born teen heartthrob Justin Bieber’s criminal misbehavior may indirectly hurt Congress’ push for comprehensive immigration reform.
All systems for the White House’s coveted blanket amnesty are “go.” President Obama just touted his version of reform during his State of the Union address. House Majority leader John Boehner released what he calls his “immigration principles.” Given those two major immigration developments, now could be a bad time for a foreign-born visa holder to be in the headlines because of his embarrassing illegal antics. Because of Bieber’s high visibility, journalists reporting on his story — seemingly everyone in the media — have included his immigration status.
Few have heard of the O visa, the vehicle that allowed Bieber to legally enter the U.S. Officially, the O visa is reserved for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business and athletics. The arts’ category includes television, motion pictures and music. Because of their employment-related status, O visa holders qualify to live and work in the U.S. The O visa has two sub-classifications, the O-2 for spouses and O-3, for minor children. One person applies to enter the U.S. but many more may eventually come.
The initial maximum amount of authorized time allowed in the U.S. on an O visa is three years. But three years can be extended indefinitely in one year increments upon evidence that additional time is required to complete the original project that required the visa. For Bieber, this translated into unofficial permanent residency since immigration officials have winked at the “additional time” stipulation. Bieber first landed in Atlanta in 2008; his tours and recording sessions did not take up his entire six-year residency period.
Under his visa’s terms, Bieber is deportable and his most recent actions warrant it. Bieber admitted to law enforcement that he was drinking and driving as well as in possession of prescription drugs for which he did not have a prescription. Prior Bieber offenses reportedly included egging his neighbor’s home (vandalism), assault (aggravated felony) and marijuana possession. Bieber should be deported because: a) he’s repeatedly broken U.S. law, and b) his numerous violations set a bad example for his fan base of easily influenced teens. No one, however, expects Bieber to be sent back to Canada.
But for those who may not have been paying attention to Obama’s immigration law circumvention — like his deferred action for childhood arrivals, non-deportation of illegal immigrants related to military personnel and suspending deportation of certain alien parents of minor children — Bieber’s case, because of his popularity, may open eyes to how lax the system is.
Whether Bieber’s an exceptional talent or not is irrelevant. Two other recent O visa recipients must have well placed friends: Argentine pin-up model Dorsimar and former Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard.
The O visa serves little purpose. Dozens of other existing visas can facilitate U.S. entry for not only entertainers but also fiancées, religious workers, students.
Because the O visa has no annual cap, access to the supposedly limited, foreign-born exceptional talent pool is unlimited. To have a high-visibility celebrity abuse his visa privileges and get off with a slap on the wrist, the likely outcome of Bieber’s case, strongly argues against liberalizing immigration laws.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. This column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For comments to Joe, email firstname.lastname@example.org.