A bill set to be introduced soon in the U.S. House of Representatives would open up 55,000 more green cards for immigrants who have graduated from U.S. colleges in certain high-tech fields. On its face, this might seem like a good idea.
However, it is important to remember that policies like this would contribute to brain drain in the countries sending these students. Moreover, rather than creating 55,000 new green cards, the proposal would take these slots from what is called the Diversity Visa Lottery, virtually the only way someone can immigrate to the U.S. if they do not have a job lined up or family already here. More than 16 million people applied for the lottery in 2011.
In support of the new proposal, Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney and a member of the Partnership for a New American Economy (and a rising star in the Democratic party) said, "It seems comical to be giving 55,000 green cards a year to people who have a pulse and a high school degree when there are people the world over with post-doctorate degrees who could be given an opportunity to employ Americans."
A pulse and a high school degree. So much for "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses." Or for us as Christians, "for I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." How far we have strayed from these ideals.
President Obama, in his speeches, frequently emphasizes the economic value of certain types of immigrants, whether it is high-tech workers, DREAM students with college degrees, or small business owners.
Even the language immigration advocates use can feed this narrative -in countering the claim that immigrants take jobs from native-born citizens, advocates often argue that "immigrants are doing the jobs Americans won't do." In reality, employers take advantage of people in desperate circumstances, sometimes in ways that are one step removed from slavery. And we support this system by demanding cheap food and cheap labor. And by largely looking the other way.
Paul contends in First Corinthians that all parts of a community are important, just as all parts of a body. Furthermore, he urges Christ's followers to recognize that: "the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor… that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it" (1 Corinthians 12:22-23, 25-26).
While scientists and engineers certainly make positive contributions to our society, so do the people who pick our food, clean our offices, and care for our young children. When we devalue certain types of work, we devalue the people who perform that work. And we devalue God's beloved children.
Visit <http://washington.mcc.org/immigration> for more resources on federal immigration policies.