Why Erect Fences in a World Without Borders?
States of America has long described — if not defined —itself as “a nation of
immigrants,” a country enriched by those who would come here seeking an
unrestricted ability to share ideas, to mingle with others from elsewhere, to
learn by being inside it what a country can do if its ideational borders are
And so, as we leave behind another of our nation's birthdays, and we approach mid-July's dog days of summer, at least as defined by our favored anglophone (American) Old Farmer's Almanac and (English) Book of Common Prayer, we might be wont to wonder how our country's 240th year will be recorded for future generations. In an era when rigorous "Academic Intensive English" (AIEP) programs are beginning to eclipse the less demanding "English as a Second Language" (ESL) curricula designed less for future academics than for lower-paid workers, and when the United States Olympic sports teams and professional athletic franchises are fed by the foreign, we might wonder: Why must politicians and hoi polloi continue to argue about immigration? Why must fences continue to be proposed, why must driving permits be denied, and why must we pretend that we have become, in this 21st century, a world nearly boundaryless, if not unbound?
and Colombians, Russians, Finns, Dominicans, and Venezuelans dot our
professional sports scene, where baseball players born outside the USA comprise
nearly 30 percent of team members. The NBA has crowed about having “finally” managed
to sign more than 100 “foreign-born” players, and even American football has
contracts with players born in Korea,
Haiti, and Congo. In
academe, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reports that 45
percent of its PhD recipients in engineering and computer sciences were born
outside the United States.
And so, I
continue to wonder, do Americans have a double standard about immigration and
immigrants? Do we invite engineers, physicists, computer geeks, chemists and
concert pianists, baseball players and basketball stars with a kind of “free
pass,” while keeping the bar higher for the hoi polloi to cross?
And why are
we at the community college continuing to pursue this sort of inequity? Pasadena City
College, in California,
charges $46 per credit hour to California
residents, but “international students” are charged $193 per credit, along with
a “capital outlay” fee and a semi-annual “international student insurance fee”
of $516, even if these students live and work in California. Several freeways away from Pasadena, the Los Rios
Community College District charges $264 per credit hour, a $50 “foreign student
application” fee, and various other matriculation expenses.
colleague of mine has stated at a four-year university where I also work
part-time, “Why would a student choose to go to a community college and join
that rat race and spend all that money when he could come here and have a
better education in a more intimate setting and pay less?”
that that is a good question.
years ago, Cushing and Poot (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10110-003-0188-5#page-2
) wrote that the United
States is seeing a shift from the internal,
the regional, to the international, the extra-regional. In academics, as in
life, more people are moving across international boundaries than are moving
within national ones, they pointed out.
than making it difficult for these internationals to integrate, we at the
community college, the so-called crucible of change, should simplify the
process. We can, after all, profit from these people. We can use them to help
us in language and culture training, in geographical and historical awareness
improvement, of course, but best yet, we can use their alternative
perspectives, their diverse ways of dealing with questions deep and small, to
help us to attain an enriched educational program that will include, not
exclude. A student of mine who was educated as an engineering hydrologist in
Ukraine can be used to help us during our California drought, perhaps; instead,
she has been taking odd jobs filing papers and answering telephones to pay the
exorbitant community college fees that she has been assessed. The student who
trained as a Judaic scholar in Poland
might be called upon to adjudicate when intra-Middle Eastern troubles bubble up
on campus; instead, she makes money by doing bookkeeping and providing tax
preparation services. The architect from Vietnam who has written for me in
flowing French might find a better place than as a roofer's assistant on top of
How can we help? Let's think about it, because our future is not only now; it is boundless.