John Oliver has a knack for explaining controversial and complex issues in a clarifying way that often fails mainstream news publications or cable news networks. Like many cable news shows, Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO is an opinion show — though Oliver grounds his opinion in fact, as all good opinion should be grounded. Beyond expressing his opinion, Oliver’s goals are satire and entertainment. So he covers hot topics and the week in news with pointed comedy and — it being premium cable and all — language that wouldn’t be safe for the morning newspaper. (Fair warning when you watch the video below.)
On Sept. 15, Oliver’s topic was immigration. He focused on a key misconception about immigration held by politicians and voters who say they favor legal immigration and who want would-be immigrants to just “get in line.” It’s a position summed up by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in four simple words: “Legal good, illegal bad.”
There’s a problem. “The truth is,” Oliver says, “for those who want to come here, there is no one ‘line’ to get in, the lines that do exist can be prohibitively long or have sudden dead ends, and for many people — and this is really important — there simply isn’t a line at all.”
Some would-be immigrants have waited in “line” for decades for their chance to come to America. The reason: There are essentially four tangled, capped paths toward U.S. citizenship or legal residency:
- Family. A spouse, child, sibling or parent who already is in the United States sponsors your arrival. President Trump denigrates this pathway as “chain migration” but first lady Melania Trump used it to bring her parents to America.
- Employment. This was the arduous and expensive path Oliver took to become a permanent resident; he shared his emotions about how stressful and uncertain the process was.
- “Good luck.” An immigration applicant miraculously wins the so-called diversity visa lottery. About 1 out of 285 applicants receive one of these visas. That is, Oliver says, your odds of winning the visa lottery “are about the same as getting shot once you get here. Basically, if you win, congratulations! For now.”
- “Bad luck.” This is the category for refugees and those seeking asylum.
As convoluted as these paths are, the Trump administration is doing everything it can to stop the process from working properly — in effect creating an “invisible wall” to legal immigration. It’s as if, Oliver jokes, the only people Trump wants to allow into the United States are “rich Norwegians and future wives.”
The point is, Oliver wraps up, “if you are going to say ‘get in line’ to people, you should at least make sure they actually have a line to stand in.”
Watch below (and watch full screen for a better picture).