My colleagues sometimes refer to me as “Professor” Thielman because I require facts, data and a strategy debate before we adopt a policy at IINE. I take their ribbing, but I’m confident a fact-based approach to strategy is standard operating procedure for most organizations.
Unfortunately, rigorous policy research isn’t the norm in the current White House. Just scratching the surface of President Trump’s recently released immigration plan shows that facts and data had nothing to do with his proposal to admit primarily “merit-based” immigrants to the United States.
But, let’s start with the moral issue. At IINE, we believe:
· The fundamental obligation of a nation founded by immigrants is to welcome people who share our values and want to contribute to the country.
· It is immoral to separate families intentionally at our border, to deny them a path to reunification in America, and to prohibit people seeking asylum the chance to make their case inside our country. This principle has been a cornerstone of American immigration policy since the nation acknowledged its failure to admit Jews fleeting the Holocaust during World War II.
· The vast majority of Americans, including Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller, have achieved success because their ancestors – who were likely unskilled and not fluent in English – immigrated to the U.S. at some point in the past.
Morality aside, there are serious economic flaws in the President’s proposal. America cannot function without a very large pool of entry-level workers to staff manufacturing and processing jobs as well as hundreds of thousands of service jobs that go unfilled each year. Without immigrants, America cannot fill the 500,000 entry-level healthcare positions needed to accommodate the increasing needs of baby boomers arriving at nursing facilities over the next twenty years. (Source CNN)
Expanded merit-based immigration would be a wonderful addition to our traditional immigration policy. The U.S. should always welcome highly skilled innovators and entrepreneurs who want to make a life in America. But, research shows those without engineering or research degrees are just as badly needed in the U.S. According to Fortune Magazine, immigrants comprise 77% of New York taxi drivers, 77% of California’s agricultural workers, and 69% of Florida’s farm workers.
One way or another, all Americans depend on these workers who become part of the fabric of local communities and whose sons and daughters pursue higher education and eventually staff our country’s “skilled workforce.”
The overwhelming need for new American labor isn’t restricted to lettuce fields and orange groves. Closer to home, the demand for entry-level workers has never been greater. Nearly 1 million immigrants live in the Greater Boston area, and another 100,000 reside in New Hampshire. Most people born outside the U.S. but living in New England would not qualify for “merit-based” immigration status, but in this region with the highest rate of college-educated adult workers in the nation, minimum-wage and lower-skilled jobs go unfilled. The construction, healthcare, and hospitality industries cannot meet their workforce needs with only native-born Americans.
New England and the entire country needs immigrants to build our economy, nurture our souls, and honor our heritage. And, we need a serious conversation about real immigration reform rather than the charade the President staged last week in the Rose Garden.
President & CEO