A family crosses the U.S. border into Arizona; a student spends his last dime on a flight that will take him to the beginning of an education in the U.S.; an abandoned immigrant mother struggles as a maid to give her children a better life than she had - these are the immigrant stories we read, and for many of us, our hearts are filled with emotion.
For those of us that have experienced even a small piece of the American Dream, it is an ideal that we wish to share: work hard, stay out of trouble, and you will be rewarded for your efforts. Assume for a moment that our immigration laws were changed so that everyone could just come legally. Can we give the American Dream to everyone in the world who is less fortunate than we are? Can we solve worldwide hunger and global economic inequality by changing our immigration laws to be more receptive? Is this the humanitarian thing to do?
If you've ever watched Roy's Gumballs Video, you will quickly see that there is absolutely no way we can solve the plight of the billions of the world's poor by simply inviting them to come here - the problem is too large, and even inviting millions to come here yearly is a losing battle because even more than that number are born into poverty around the globe each year.
Also, even though the United States gives more foreign aid than any other country, and even more if you consider private donations, we can see that while the rest of the world is marginally benefitting from our success, the global economic inequality is still not being addressed at its root causes. World hunger still exists.
So why have we had success in the United States while the rest of the developing world has languished?
Some would argue chance, politics, "freedom", agricultural advantages, etc. But one of the main causes I would contend is our dependence on immigration - but what other countries would call "brain drain". When a bright future doctor from Kenya wants to study medicine, he (or she) comes to the United States. We then entice him/her to stay. We all feel great that we have recruited the best and the brightest from around the world, but think of the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people that doctor could have seen during his/her lifetime. We have essentially stolen one of the most valuable resources a country has - its agents of change. Yet no one considers this a crime against humanity, ignoring the fact that many kids will die because the only doctor they could have had is living in a mansion in the United States.
When we casually look at the people that immigrate to the United States, we many times see them as poor and in need of our help (and for those that are requesting asylum that is many times the case). However, a deeper look reveals that the vast majority of the people that come to this country are the ones most likely to succeed in their own countries. We see a person with a torn shirt and feel pity, but the village they left behind may not even have shoes. The honest truth is that even the poor that come here are many times better off than the neighbors they left behind because they have the will and determination to make their lives better.
So what is the humanitarian thing to do? We need to be sending doctors, agricultural engineers, sanitary engineers, hydro engineers, businessmen, politicians, technologists, etc. into these countries to solve structural problems. Speaking of which, we are already half way there - with the best education system in the world, we educate hundreds of thousands of the best and brightest from around the world each year.
The humanitarian thing to do is to export what has made us succeed, not import the very people that the world needs.
As we've all heard a million times, America was built on immigration - but think about it: if immigration was for our benefit, whose loss was it? And yet, we try to appease our national guilt of stealing the best and brightest by calling it a humanitarian exercise.
I'm not suggesting that I resent my country for its successes - but let's be honest as a nation. Let's either admit we are holding the rest of the less developed world back by recruiting its agents of change or let's stop stealing its intellectual resources. Either way, let's stop pretending to have sympathy for someone that is sometimes only marginally worse off than we are while ignoring the truly poor and destitute. It's time to confront our humanitarian self-deception.
SOLOMON GIFFORD is the Director of Technology for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Jul 21st 2017 @ 11:22am EDT