Brow Beat

John Oliver Breaks Down the Four Major Paths to Legal U.S. Immigration, Including His Own

In between jokes about how Ted Cruz can lick his scrotum and adding the line “Death has a big fat dick” to an Emily Dickinson poem, John Oliver told a surprisingly moving story about immigration on Last Week Tonight. Oliver examined the four major pathways to legal residency or citizenship in the United States—family, employment, “good luck,” and “bad luck”—and noted that while Trump supporters claim to be in favor of legal immigration, the president has denigrated “chain migration” and the diversity visa lottery program while his administration keeps changing the rules to make it more difficult for people to immigrate legally.

Oliver is speaking from experience, considering he came to the U.S. on an O-1 visa, which is granted to people with extraordinary abilities in the arts, among other areas of expertise. “I know what you’re really thinking deep down, and fuck you,” he said. But Oliver also recalled the stress and expense of living on a visa, having to file for extensions every year and physically leave the country every 11 months to get his passport stamped at the American Embassy in London, all while fearing he wouldn’t be allowed to come back. He also recalls how he “nearly burst into tears” when he was surprised with his green card—along with a slice of apple pie and a Budweiser—at The Daily Show.

But not everyone is so lucky, says Oliver, noting that some would-be immigrants face decades of waiting and that even those approved for a green card won’t necessarily get one. “As corny as it might sound, America at its best isn’t about who you are when you arrive. It’s about who you want to become. The yearning part fucking counts,” he said. “And that doesn’t have to mean that everyone who wants to come gets to come, but 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.”