Many people are speaking well of President Trump’s newly announced immigration policy known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act). Perhaps we could better call it the Reforming American Immigration by Creating a Brain Drain from Developing Countries Act.
Don’t get me wrong: I agree that our immigration system is terribly broken and needed to be fixed the day before yesterday. And I am grateful that President Trump has taken a first step to reform that broken system.
Let me be clear, also, that I am not for open borders. Nations without borders cease to be nations. I am for well-regulated borders and a rational immigration policy suited to the 21st Century.
But the RAISE Act is not the way to fix our failing immigration policy. Yes, if the only concern is to “Make America Great Again” by drawing away from their own countries the cream of the crop–immigrants who speak English and have marketable skills–it would be a good thing.
But what does this bill mean for the countries they are emigrating from? Nations would be losing the very educated leaders and entrepreneurs they need for their own societies’ development. They are giving their best and brightest to a nation that is already one of the world’s wealthiest. While the RAISE Act may help improve our economy, it will harm the economies and futures of developing nations.
In fact, the consequences do not bode well even for the US. We would be faced with greater poverty abroad and an increased flow of refugees seeking asylum.
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. To shut our borders would be to deny our very nature. It is a genius of our country that we are a nation founded on an idea: freedom. We are not, as most nations, founded on ethnic, tribal, or racial identity. To the religiously and politically oppressed we have opened our arms wide, welcoming them to a land of opportunity. Here, through hard work and lawful lives, they can flourish as individuals and families. This is the unique vision of freedom found in the USA.
We must always remember our Statue of Liberty holding the torch, the bright light, to guide the downtrodden and oppressed to freedom’s shore. Poet Emma Lazarus reminds us of who we are and why we exist. Her poem “The Collosus” is inscribed at the base of the statue.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Our greatness and wealth is not found in our economy and material prosperity, but in our vision of freedom. This vision undergirds the greatness of our founding documents and the opportunities afforded by this nation. Political and religious refugees who shared our vision and values to build a great and unique nation were drawn here and welcomed. In fact, it is our founding of freedom and justice for all that created the conditions for economic prosperity.
We need to cast this vision afar. We need to declare that free and just nations do not fall from the sky. Free nations are built. They are built by men and women with freedom ablaze in their hearts. We in the United States need to be a free people again, not a people drunken with material affluence and spiritual lethargy.
First we should provide encouragement, and moral and institutional support to those educated men and women with freedom in their hearts to envision and build their own countries into nations that are free and not enslaved, flourishing and not poor, just and not corrupt. We should encourage them to stay home as nation builders.
Having traveled globally for nearly forty years I have had the privilege of meeting courageous young leaders in Africa, Central and South America, and Asia with the connections and credentials to easily immigrate to Europe or the United States. Most speak English. They are the kind of people the RAISE Act would encourage to come to the United States. But these young men and women have a profound love for their own countries and a desire to see their societies develop freedom and flourishing. While they could have emigrated, they have chosen to stay to give their lives for the building of their nation. These folks are my friends and heroes.
Second, we need to mentor young men and women from abroad who are studying in this country to return to their countries as nation builders. They could contribute profoundly to the building of their nations by returning home with their newly acquired knowledge and appreciation for the institutions of freedom. My good friend Dr. Bob Osburn from the Wilberforce Academy has been inculcating this vision in young international scholars studying in the USA. Go here to see the mission of the Wilberforce Academy for discipling nation builders.
Perhaps President Trump’s actions will inspire a new national debate as to who we are and what makes us a great nation. Is America great because of her natural and economic wealth? Or is she great because she has a founding vision and documents that welcome those fleeing slavery and persecution and who are willing to sacrifice everything to live free?
- Darrow Miller