U.S. Immigration Policies ‘Are Failing the Undocumented,’ Harvard President Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2021/02/19/u-s-immigration-policies-are-failing-the-undocumented-harvard-president-says/

Immigration policies in the United States are failing immigrants in the country illegally and their supporters, Harvard University’s president said.

Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which has prevented illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from being deported, has done some good but doesn’t go far enough.

“DACA status has led to better economic and educational outcomes for some. But it is the lack of permanent legal status that denies all too many the opportunity to contribute the full measure of their talent and creativity in this country, to their home. I think our immigration policies are failing the undocumented, and the majority of Americans who see immigrants as a source of strength and renewal in this country,” Bacow said during an online forum Friday supporting President Joe Biden’s proposed amnesty bill. “Congress must end the uncertainty, and provide the broadest possible relief for those who are undocumented, including those who have enjoyed temporary protected status.”

Bacow said current U.S. immigration policy is hurting colleges like Harvard, where many students come from foreign countries and 35 percent of the faculty was born outside the country.

“For decades, the United States has been a top destination for international students and scholars, but this preeminence cannot be assured. Our fiercest economic competitors aspire to have what we have, with their governments offering far more favorable treatment to international students and international scholars,” Bacow said.

He said American colleges and Americans benefit from freer immigration.

“Like the United States, all of our colleges and universities thrive when the world’s best have the opportunity to join our community, to fuel the science and the discoveries and innovation that improve our health and economy, and our quality of life. Students from across the world challenge us, their teachers, but also our domestic students, in the classroom. And many of them hope and desire just to build lives in the U.S., as others have before them,” Bacow said.

New Boston Post contacted an immigration-reductionist seeking response to Bacow’s comments.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports what it calls a “pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted,” said Bacow’s characterization of U.S. immigration policy is backwards.

“Our immigration policies are supposed to serve our national interest, not those who are here in violation of our laws,” Vaughan told New Boston Post by email. “While there is some acceptance of giving amnesty to those with DACA, such an amnesty should occur only after robust enforcement of our immigration laws is in place, and in combination with reductions in certain less justifiable legal entry programs, so as to mitigate the costs of the amnesty and so as to prevent future illegal immigration.”

Vaughan said that allowing unusually skilled immigrants into the country makes sense, but not to the level Harvard’s president is suggesting.

“There is broad support for allowing the entry of uniquely talented and promising immigrants; in fact we already have a category that allows about 20,000 such immigrants and their families each year. Our immigration system must be reformed to admit a larger proportion of immigrants based on talent and skills that they bring, rather than continuing to admit the majority of immigrants through family chain migration, lottery, or programs for ordinary workers,” Vaughan said in an email message.

The federal government has a program known as Optional Practical Training, which allows temporary employment in the United States in an area directly related to a foreign student’s studies here. Vaughan said that while American universities are rightly highly sought after by foreigners, this temporary employment program is often abused.

“There is no reason to believe that the United States will not continue to be a top destination for students and scholars around the world, as long as our colleges have outstanding programs. Unfortunately, our student visa and OPT programs have also attracted tens of thousands of mediocre and unqualified students every year who are seeking work, not an education, and those cases should be weeded out,” Vaughan said by email.

Toward the end of his remarks on Friday, the Harvard president took a shot at former President Donald Trump, without mentioning him by name.

“After an unprecedented period of hostility towards immigrants and towards refugees, we’re at a critical turning point. We need Congress to pass legislation to put the undocumented on a path to citizenship, and to win back international students and scholars, to avoid lasting damage to our national competitiveness, security, prosperity,” Bacow said.

But Vaughan said immigration laws protect the country, and that looking out for America does not imply unfriendliness to foreigners.

“Having policies that serve the national interest, maintain the integrity of our laws, and require unqualified and fraudulent applicants to go home are not inherently hostile to immigrants; on the contrary, they preserve opportunities for qualified legal immigrants and help ensure public confidence in our immigration policies,” Vaughan said by email.

The online forum at which Bacow spoke, titled “The New England Business Immigration Summit 2021,” took place on Friday, February 19. Bacow belongs to one of the organizations that sponsored the event — The Presidents’ Alliance On Higher Education and Immigration. (The name refers to college presidents.)

Other sponsors of the forum include The New England Council, which advocates for businesses in the region and lobbies for its members; and several pro-immigration groups:  the American Business Immigration Coalition, The Massachusetts Business Immigration Council, Maine Business Immigration Council, and Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

Democrats narrowly control the U.S. House of Representatives currently, but supporters of President Biden’s immigration bill feel confident about getting it through the House.

The higher hurdle is the U.S. Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. Supporters of President Biden’s immigration bill are hoping to get enough Republicans to vote for cloture, which would cut off debate and allow an up-or-down vote on the bill. That ordinarily takes 60 votes.

“To achieve immigration reform we need 10 Republicans and every Democrat,” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, during the forum Friday.