Rebecca Girn, Chief Programs Officer and General Counsel of Higher Ground Education, has written an incredibly moving article — Keeping America Safe from… Montessori teachers? — that makes a two-pronged moral case for immigration.
1. The immigrants that go through the effort to legally come to America are exceptional and a benefit to the country.
In my experience, the very best teachers frequently come from other countries.
I am not sure why this is. I think in part it’s because it requires great personal heroism to overcome the significant hurdles that stand in the way of immigration to the United States. The teachers I have worked to bring to this country have been faced with years, sometimes decades, of intense effort in the face of constant anxiety and extended separation from parents, husbands, children.
Even prior to finding a job in the U.S. or formally petitioning for a visa, these teachers work to learn English, earn degrees, gain experience, and become expert in their field. Once they find us, and we file a petition on their behalf, we persist together through a maze of fickle, hostile immigration laws, wielded by immigration officials with broad discretion. They have the power to damage lives and kill possible futures. Even once the visa is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a consular officer having a bad day can decide on a whim to refuse to issue the visa in the applicant’s passport, unmaking years of effort and expense.
By the time a person has overcome all of this, she is likely to be made of pretty strong stuff. Only a teacher who is crystal clear on her life goals can pay these costs and bear these uncertainties. She brings all that character, persistence, and passion into the classroom. It is the children who benefit.
2. In a free country, an immigration bureaucrat’s decision should not over-ride the rights of American employers.
Immigration — especially employment-based immigration — is a basic, straightforward issue of individual rights.
Whose rights am I talking about? Mine.
I’m an American citizen, born and raised. I’ve visited pretty much every state in the Union. I co-founded a business in this country employing thousands (immigrants remain just a small fraction of our workforce). I am an expert in Montessori education. I am an expert in what makes a good Montessori teacher.
So: whose judgment should I use when I’m trying to hire the best teachers? Whose judgment should I use when I’m working to bring our schools up to the highest possible ideal that I can conceive of? To lift up American children out of the stagnant educational cesspit most children are subjected to in this country?
Should I be forced to acquiesce to the judgment of a USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] officer who has never heard of Montessori, has no understanding of education or children, has never stepped foot in a classroom, doesn’t care if my business succeeds or fails, and doesn’t care if American children are educated or not? Or should I be permitted to use my own judgment?
I submit that it is my judgment that matters. It is my right to hire the person that I think is best for the job. It is my freedom that is being trampled by the stroke of a pen of a man who knows and cares nothing for my American dream.
Wow! Mrs. Girn’s entire article is worth a read.
Robert Tracinski made a similar argument back in 1999 in his article Restrictions on “H-1B” Visas Punish Ability and Trample the Rights of Employer and Employee (Capitalism Magazine):
The irrational premise behind our nation’s immigration laws is that a native-born American has a “right” to a particular job, not because he has earned it, but because he was born here. To this “right,” the law sacrifices the employer’s right to hire the best employees — and the immigrant’s right to take a job that he deserves. To put it succinctly, initiative and productiveness are sacrificed to sloth and inertia.
The “American dream” is essentially the freedom of each individual to rise as far as his abilities take him. The opponents of immigration, however, want to repudiate that vision by turning America into a privileged preserve for those who want the law to set aside jobs for them — jobs they cannot freely earn through their own efforts.
The quotas on H-1B visas — along with all other visas — should not just be expanded; they should be eliminated. Any immigrant who wants to come to America in search of a better life should be let in — and any employer who wants to hire him should be free to do so. Anything less would be un-American.
Update: Girn is interview on The Ross Kaminsky Show on “Why can’t I hire whichever teacher I want to?“ (16 July 2020).