I attended the last lecture of ‘Immigration Law and Policy,’ a class I audited this semester at Georgetown Law School. As someone who is interested in Law, Policy and Immigration issues, I got a lot out of this class. As a wrap up, Prof. Andy Schoenholtz reminded the class that the U.S. has followed (and still follows) three distinct models of immigration.
1. The Virginia Model : This one is based on limited rights for workers. The plantation workers in Virginia did not want to give rights to the slaves who worked on their farms and were not too excited about emancipation. The country fought a war for that and ironically, this debate still continues, despite much legislation and public opinion having changed.
2. The Massachusetts Model : This model, historically wanted only the ‘believers’ aka Puritans. This eventually led to the national origins quota system and it was only finally abolished in 1965 with the Hart-Cellar Act.
3. The Pennsylvania Model : Inspired by the Quakers, who were pluralists and who believed that anyone could adopt ‘American’ values and become American. This system ha been place since 1965, when national origins quota ended.
As a society, America is going through some fundamental changes – both demographically and socilogically. Values are being informed by greater moral pluralism. But it looks like systems of administration and certain legal norms are not keeping pace with these changes. “Why are we at cross-roads? ” Prof. Schoenholtz asked. One answer could be that our society and economy has changed. But the Congress hasn’t changed laws to keep up with this, he answered.
While congress has spent money, they have failed to address why immigrants come – both legally and illegally. There are 12 million undocumented workers because they haven’t been made ‘legal.’ The reason that Congress hasn’t legalized their status is a reflection of the VA model, he suggested. Also, as he was talking, I was thinking about the issue of power and political expediency. There are political movements that stand to gain by keeping these people outside of the ‘mainstream.’ If they could vote, participate in American society legally, it would hurt their interests. While all of this seems common-sense, it is not perceived.
Amidst the calls for ‘protecting American jobs’ and ‘securing the border’ we tend to forget that humanitarian grounds are forgotten. Historical precedents are lost and talking points take over. Progress isn’t always linear and there is a risk that the VA model might take over again, if people let the status quo prevail. The real challenge sometimes is to know that the status quo is dangerous. Sometimes, one to question the very basics of what we accept to be fundamental truth to get to the ‘truth’ that is just, honorable and dignified.
Finally, I came across this blog post by Marketing Guru, Seth Godin, who has asked some interesting questions, about ‘Closing the Gate’. His questions are a good way to wrap up this short post :
Do outsiders get the benefit of the doubt?
Do we make it easy for outsiders to become insiders?
Is there a clear and well-lit path to do so?
When we tell someone new, “that not how we do things around here,” do we also encourage them to learn the other way and to try again?
Are we even capable of explaining the status quo, or is the way we do things set merely because we forgot that we could do it better?
Is a day without emotional or organizational growth a good day?