Give Me Your Wired, Keep Your Poor: The New Welcome Mat for High Tech Immigrants

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Nov 10, 2011

photo taken from Michael Righi's flickr page

Recent bipartisan action by the House Judiciary Committee to approve more high-skilled, high-tech immigrants from China and India into the US reveals, once again, the crass – indeed class – politics of Congressional immigration policy gridlock.

The ironically named “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act” passed out of Committee with nary a peep of opposition from its fiercely anti-immigrant members.  Chairman Lamar (“Deport ‘Em All) Smith himself waxed eloquent about the need for immigrant “professionals with advanced degrees and aliens of exceptional ability”; Iowa’s Steve King raised obligatory questions to varnish his anti-immigrant credentials, but eventually kept his quiet.  Democrats joined the Republican choir, and thereby made the bill notable “for its lack of rancor” between the members.

This is what we mark as progress these days.

Alone – and in light of the refusal of leaders of both parties to break through the impasse that stands as “immigration policy” – passage of this Act makes clear that poor and/or “unprofessional” immigrants are worthy only of restrictions, border fences, deportation, and are, moreover, fair game for the draconian state laws advanced by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and other anti-immigrant groups.

No matter that the millions of “poor” immigrants at the base of the economy that feed the nation and keep it running every day—if they didn’t get here “legally,” if they don’t have documents, and if they languish in deportation incarceration, it’s just too bad.  After all, the Judiciary Committee and Congress is just way too busy dealing with the plight of techie-bereft companies that absolutely must be able to employ more and more “aliens of exceptional ability.”

As if hard, physical labor does not require “exceptional ability.”  As if immigrants without “degrees” contribute nothing to our collective well-being.

We can expect nothing from this Congress with regard to immigration policy that actually addresses the immigration issues at hand.  Were Emma Lazarus writing today, her oft-quoted line – “Give me your tired, your poor” – from her 1883 sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty might read: “If you’re wired and techie, / you’re welcome and hired, / if you’re tired and you’re poor / you’re deported or fired.”

Welcome to twenty-first century America.

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