Thursday, on the heel’s of the Department of Justice’s semi-convert plan to uproot Affirmative Action at colleges across the country, President Trump announced a plan to overhaul the country’s ‘legal immigration’ strategy, by placing a higher “merit-based” premium on technical skill. Predictably, this decision set the knee-jerk liberal world ablaze with charges of classism, racism, xenophobia, and various other “isms” and “obias.” Some of this frustration is justified, particularly in light of the President’s history. Trump is officially out fishing; the man is practically a lame duck in his first year in office, and he’s seeking victory wherever it can be clawed and teased out. It’s not a bad plan. But this country isn’t buying what Trump’s selling, even though the pantry is empty.
Trump’s poll numbers are so low he’s resorted to throwing racial red meat at his base. First affirmative action and then legal immigration.
— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) August 4, 2017
The kindling material begins with the sublimated quid pro quo in the so-called RAISE Act that new legal immigrants be conversant in the English language. Most colleges and universities use a language-based exam, such as the TOEFL, as part of the admission requirements for non-native English speakers. And we know that most colleges that recruit international students are, by and large, expressing and actualizing a predilection for those who are pursuing a STEM degree. Have you been to your biosciences department lately? What am I missing? Do we not recognize that cohesion and efficiency are generally produced from the ability to understand one another? There is no doubt that debate around the RAISE Act will suffer from the same level of identity politics as Trump’s other contentious bills targeting specific segments of the society. But perhaps this bill happens to be right on-point, save the messenger.
Most colleges and universities use a language-based exam, such as the TOEFL, as part of the admission requirements for non-native English speakers. And we know that most colleges who recruit international students are, by and large, expressing and actualizing a predilection for those who are pursuing a STEM degree. Have you been to your biosciences department lately?
Trump’s proposed initiative seeks, primarily, to curb the contentious, apparent increase in unskilled legal immigration in the US. This act operates under the premise that those who have been legally immigrating over the past several decades are not necessarily people who are making meaningful contributions to the economy in terms of service and support to, in particular, our country’s STEM-related industries (and, accordingly, are not contributing larger sums of income tax to Uncle Sam). Some economic data sources show that this imbalance in the ratio of unskilled immigrants to skilled immigrants (and their native US citizen counterparts) has had an adverse impact on wages overall and imposes negative collateral effects on low-skill native US citizen workers; unsurprisingly, this data tends to come from conservative-leaning think-tanks and Republican news outlets such as The National Review. Over the past 24 hours, the White House has leaned rather heavily on these measures though, causing some friction with the press and resident Twitterati.
The World Bank would seem to disagree with the claim that unskilled workers meaningfully disrupt (one way or the other) the economy, arguing in a piece published just this past May that “although unskilled immigrant workers have low formal human capital, they can still contribute to productivity improvements by helping the national economy become more efficient and by generating incentives for the native labor force to upgrade their skills.” However, other research would seem to strongly suggest that rarely do these immigrant-derived pressures spur actual recruitment (or retention) of unskilled US citizens (who are [also] already at loggerheads with illegal immigrants) in the workforce. This is particularly an issue in areas where training and professional development programs are not readily accessible.
Still, not even Republicans are thrilled with this bill, and it’s expected to bump up against significant bipartisan opposition, despite the repeated failures of Congress to move the needle on the country’s flawed immigration policies. Southern dandy Lindsey Graham took to Twitter to discuss the bill’s potential impacts on his home state of South Carolina, choosing to stay on Republican terra firma rather than wax poetic on humanitarian concerns a la the left-wing contingent in Congress.
SC #1 industry is Ag. Tourism #2.
If proposal were to become law… devastating to SC economy which relies on this immigrant workforce. 3
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 2, 2017
The conversation now rests with the lowest hanging fruit of the proposal for critics; the notion that the bill is somehow posing an Artistolean litmus test on what it means to be American, and on mankind itself. “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning…,” etc. etc. It’s not. It’s smart–which we need more bursts of in this country, wherever we can find them.
(Photo courtesy of Marina)