When Tim Wheelwright was asked about the state of our immigration system in the United States, he answered without hesitation.

“We have a broken immigration system; it’s extremely dysfunctional,” said Wheelwright, an immigration attorney with Durham, Jones and Pinegar.

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Tim Wheelwright spoke as part of the Nye Lecture Series on Thursday with the Goddard School of Business. Photo credit: Tim Wheelwright

Wheelwright spoke as part of the Nye Lecture Series last Thursday with the Goddard School of Business.

The lecture began with Wheelwright stating that he didn’t want to discuss the political implications of immigration, instead he talked about the barriers in our lives and our minds and how we can overcome them.

One of the barriers he mentioned was education, an issue for students and especially for immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking an education.

Wheelwright talked about a scientist with a cheese company in Idaho who had worked hard and earned his doctorate in the U.S., but would have to wait 15 years to get permanent status, despite his educational ability and contribution to the economy.

“We need to make sure that our immigration makes sense for employment,” said Wheelwright.

The Utah Technology Council’s number one public policy is workforce development, because Utah simply doesn’t produce enough highly-skilled workers to fill all of the open jobs. The way to compensate for this has been by importing highly-skilled workers from other countries.

According to Wheelwright, emigration is an entrepreneurial act, an investment by immigrants.

“They left the life that they had in whatever country they were in and sought something better,” Wheelwright said. “They wanted an opportunity. Are those not the qualities that employers want?”

The lecture continued as he talked about relationships and opportunities that we can gain through the people that we know. He cautioned students to not have relationships solely for their own gain.

“If you focus on the other person and how you can help them, what you need will take care of itself.”

Wheelwright talked about one case where he was able to help a young woman.

This young woman was about to graduate as her class valedictorian with a full scholarship to the University of Utah, but was discouraged at her prospects because she was undocumented. She was brought by her parents from Colombia as a young child, and because she was undocumented, she would never have the opportunity to work.

On June 13, 2012, President Obama announced Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals or DACA, an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation, as long as they were under 16 when they arrived in the U.S.

When Wheelwright heard about this executive order, he immediately thought of the student.

“My mind was immediately drawn to this girl—there now was hope, there was now going to be a way for her.”

This young woman continues to excel in her endeavors at university.

Tim Wheelwright wanted students to understand that not only they could overcome difficulties, but also help others overcome theirs.

He ended with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

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