Monday, December 3, 2012

United States Immigration Policy: Give me your highly talented, your wealthy…

I can’t help but think what a starkly different attitude our nation has today toward immigration as compared with previous generations. Consider the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of you teamming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Our forbearers welcomed immigrants from around the world, many of whom were in desperate circumstances. Now we have immigration policy that provides priority to those who are either very wealthy or have an education we think might be valuable for commerce.  For the deep-pocketed investors our country developed the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.  The government offers conditional visas for people who invest $1 million in new or recently created businesses, or $500,000 for businesses in rural or high-unemployment areas. The GOP-controlled house recently passed the STEM Jobs Act.  This bill would provide automatic permanent residency to immigrants working toward advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  

So now, rather than welcoming immigrants who are working as migrant workers, landscapers or roofers struggling to feed their families we are giving top priority to those who can offer much intellectual or financial capital to our wealthy nation. I don’t know about the history of others who have ancestors that immigrated to this country, but I’m pretty sure my kin were dirt poor Scandinavian farmers. People of their ilk wouldn’t qualify to immigrate under these new policy priorities.

Given our change in attitude toward immigration I’m thinking we should update Lady Liberty’s inscription with “Give me your highly talented, your wealthy, the elite few that can help ease our nation’s debt.  The best and the brightest of your third world shores.  Send these the well healed and secure to me.  To all else I lower my lamp beside my fortified door.”  

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