Colleges Need a New School of Thought on Immigration

Some of the loudest cheers at Joe Biden’s inauguration came from America’s colleges and universities. After four years of playing defense, higher education sees itself back on offense.

“The last four years have been a real grind, and we are looking forward to turning the page,” said Maureen Martin, director of Immigration Services for Harvard’s International Office.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), representing 245 schools across the U.S., took a few parting shots at the Trump administration’s “horrifically misguided travel ban” while the collegiate Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration hailed its efforts to block stronger student visa policies.

In an Inauguration Day statement, the Alliance laid out its expansive wish list: “A robust roadmap to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented population … clearing various visa backlogs, ending per-country caps, expanding access to green cards for international student graduates, and extending work permits and pathways for dependents.”

It is an article of faith at the Ivory Tower that the more immigration, the better. This makes sense from a pecuniary perspective: U.S. colleges and universities collected $39 billion in foreign-student tuition in 2016, a figure that declined during Trump’s tenure.

On immigration policy, the higher-education sector may be the least ideologically diverse place on Earth, says John Wahala, writing for the Center for Immigration Studies. He cites a 2014-2015 study that found lockstep opposition to any immigration restrictions or enforcement. Among 125 college presentations on immigration issues, only one debate and one forum included any dissenting viewpoints.

It’s not likely that ratio has changed much. Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, summed up the group think in 2018 when she parroted the globalist mantra that national borders are “just accidents of history.” Anyone who disagrees is dismissed as mentally or morally defective – or both.

Looking for ways out of the campus echo chamber, George La Noue, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, says higher education must return to the basics. He would revitalize the immigration discussion by using yes or no questions as a starting point. For example: Are national borders legitimate? Should assimilation be pursued?

Wahala reasons that if higher education addresses such foundational questions in a civil and dispassionate manner then students and faculty can move on to more nuanced propositions: How many Americans should there be? What sanctions should there be for violating immigration law?

Amid its partisan cheerleading, does higher ed have the intellectual curiosity and capacity to honestly take up the debate? The answer will speak volumes about America’s future.

About Author


Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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