The United States of America has always been a beacon of hope. Our identity to the world, or at least the one that we wanted to project as a nation, was one of freedom.
As an immigration lawyer I’ve represented a wide range of individuals seeking to make the United States home. I’ve sat in countless meetings with clients committed to the principles and values that the United States represents. Economic opportunity. Political freedom. Social acceptance. Firm beliefs that would serve to propel families across the ocean to start anew and build a better life, for themselves and future generations.
What I’ve experienced in the past several years (and particularly in the last several months), once again as an immigration lawyer, has been enough to make Lady Liberty bow her head in grief.
Across the Atlantic
In 2019, I moved from the United States to Italy with my wife and two children. It was a privileged choice to be making, and our reasons for leaving were mainly personal and lifestyle oriented. We had already lived and experienced Europe and other parts of the world. We knew the quality of life that you could have outside of an exciting, grinding cosmopolitan like New York City.
And so, for the last several years I’ve been looking at the United States from the outside. At first, I was still practicing as a private U.S. immigration lawyer, propelling me to far corners of the world where the desire to migrate to the United States for a better life was stronger than ever. Yet, by virtue of being in Italy, another migration pattern started to emerge. This crystallized into a realization that there was no shortage of U.S. nationals that were starting to look across the Atlantic….and not just as tourists.
The Perfect Storm
The world emerged from the pandemic as a different place. As people, we had all gone through something brutal and unforgiving. The United States was no exception, yet there was something notably unique about the way America did surface into a post-pandemic world.
As an immigration lawyer I am experiencing something that I never anticipated to be part of my career trajectory. Before the pandemic, I realized that the United States was a “blue ocean market”. From a business lens, it was clear that being able to provide clear, bilingual information and services tailored to the West about immigration opportunities abroad (specifically Europe) would be valuable.
Yet this article is not about about business opportunities and emerging markets. It is about the reasons why U.S. nationals are leaving the New World. And these reasons are not easy to digest.
I recently consulted with a family living in Texas. They had two young-children and were inquiring about moving to Spain. They had never been, but they were fluent in Spanish. After determining that Spain was a viable option, the conversation shifted into other practical aspects of relocation: Health insurance, education, and reasons for leaving.
It went something like this:
Me: “You will also need healthcare coverage in Spain to qualify.”
Client: “Okay, I pay nearly $1,500 per month for healthcare coverage - do you know how much it will be in Spain?”
Me: “No. I cannot tell you exactly how much, but I know other clients have paid this amount for one year of coverage.”
Client: “Can my child go to school in Spain?”
Me: “How old is he?
Me: “Well, he can definitely go to public school when he is the minimum age for kindergarten or pre-school.”
Client: “Is that free.”
Client: “What about private school?”
Me: “I can’t really tell you about the private schools in Spain, but I can tell you that we enrolled our kids in an international school when we arrived in Italy.”
Client: “How much did that cost, if you don’t mind me asking.”
Me:: “I don’t mind. We moved here from New York where we were paying for their preschool. Now it is around $800/month for two kids. They get a three course meal though.”
Client: “We pay double, and our kid gets corndogs.”
Reasons for Leaving the United States
Our conversation wavered between a sense of helplessness and hopeful optimism. In many ways, this range of emotion is very similar to many of my client conversations. I don’t want to leave, but I feel like I have no other option. We’re ready to leave and excited about this new challenge. It’s a big life change, but now is the time. It’s a great opportunity. And in many ways, this particular client consultation was unlike any other for one specific reason.
Client: “We’re scared.”
When our conversation reached this point, I felt something that I never experienced before in my professional life. No doubt, I’ve been in very difficult situations as an immigration advisor. I’ve experienced desperation in client situations - from the slums of India to Federal Asylum proceedings in the Courts in New York. But this had a shade of its own. This was a fellow American, with children, telling me that they were scared.
Client: “We heard the gunshots from our home.”
The client went on to express that in two different occasions – once in New York and another in Texas – these shootings happened in close proximity to their home and children's school.
After this call last week I felt compelled to write this article. As an immigration advisor, I never imagined the waves of migration being reversed in this way – with the catalyst for needing to leave the United States of America being fear and grave concerns with safety. As a parent, this chills me to the bone. As an American, this pains me deeply to the point of seeking patriotic revenge.
Revenge for what America has done to itself. Revenge for the system that is fueling an alarming and untenable crisis. Revenge for the values and principles that have been lost and forgotten. Revenge for the blood that has spilled in order to protect, honor and liberate these fundamental declarations of independence.
So it is with a heavy heart that I share this personal story. And sadly, I know this is not some anomaly. In the past several months, I’ve had these conversations with increasing frequency – one compounding the other. It's not just headline news. There is a deep wound inside the heart of America that is bleeding. And there is only one universal truth that follows, with time being the only way for this bleeding heart to mend. And mend it will. Mend it must. But how long will it take?
David is a passionate advocate for the freedom of movement and licensed immigration lawyer. In his private practice, he advises individuals and businesses regarding global immigration and mobility solutions.