Support Merit-Based Immigration System

Raise Your Hand Logo.jpg

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, February 3, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Toby In, Kalani High School Class of 2020, Kasen Wong, Hawaii Baptist Academy Class of 2019

Currently, the United States is more politically divided than ever before. As a result, Americans have created an echo chamber in which we isolate ourselves into an environment that simply validates our own beliefs. The lack of much-needed conversations amongst people of opposing viewpoints has given rise to the resentful consequences of political polarization. As high school students, we feel obligated to create a more politically united country for a better America. To bridge this divide, our group, Around the Roundtable, aims to create a platform for people of various viewpoints to hear and understand their political differences through the art of civil discussion. One of the issues at the center of this tumultuous political climate is the topic of race and immigration, specifically the value and benefits of merit-based immigration policies.

Merit-based immigration policies are policies that allow people to migrate to countries based on their merits and potential to contribute to the economy. This merit-based system typically considers criteria such as health, income, and occupational status. Such a proposal appears enticing in several ways. For instance, immigration complication could be evaded by only allowing certain immigrants who can make a contribution with their citizenship. As a result of being selective, it leads to a country that is productive, hard-working, and patriotic.

Furthermore, an issue often associated with both legal and illegal immigration is decreased wages and job availability for working-class Americans. However, with a merit-based system it would limit the flow of low-skilled immigrants, thus making it easier for native-born working-class Americans to find work. A merit-based system accounts for both the prosperity of native-born Americans and the benefits that hard working skilled immigrants have on the country.

Opponents argue that meritocratic immigration policies favor immigrants from more developed countries as they often have the education and financial background to fill the criteria of an acceptable U.S. citizen. This leaves immigrants, who may be equally hard working, from politically unstable countries such as Venezuela or El Salvador at a disadvantage to enter U.S. borders. These individuals often struggle to get the proper education or a strong financial background to fulfill the criteria of merit-based immigration policies.

A solution to this potential bias in the immigration screening process is similar to that of the points-based immigration system currently implemented in Canada and Australia. During the immigration screening process, prioritizing immigrants that have a desire to assimilate into American culture and learn the English language can help retain America’s rich culture and values, while also support a growing multicultural population.

America is known for its great history of innovation as well as its economic and military prowess. Through meritocratic immigration policies, America can continue to grow on its great history by accepting the best and the brightest. However, these meritocratic immigration policies must be enforced in a way that allows citizens from all countries an equal opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Bringing it back to our first event where we were able to bring together individuals from all parts of the political spectrum to settle out their differences. We hope that our first event is a parallel to how America will enforce its immigration policies: listening to all the voices of America to enforce an immigration policy that will ultimately benefit America as a whole.

Cost Is Daunting, But College Is Worth It

Raise Your Hand Logo.jpg

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, January 6, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Jett Kaler, McKinley High School, Class of 2019

The reality that most high school seniors are faced with are life determining questions: Is college worth it? What kind of job will I have in ten years if I go to college or if I don’t? We have to answer these questions for ourselves depending on our own interests and future wants.

For most people, college is the natural progression, but for some, college is the more difficult choice. Only 70% of high school graduates go on to college, and only 58% receive their diploma. Students in the United States are $1.5 trillion dollars in debt from college tuition. On average, it takes 21 years for an individual to pay back student loans. Most won’t be finished paying for college until after their 40th birthday.

Although it's easier to stay within support systems and comfort zones, forego the debt, and get on to making money, it is important that every student in America receive the best education and obtain the many values that going to college has to offer.

College is the best way to discover things that we’re truly passionate about and to secure the financial and career benefits that can only be gained through a college experience. There are approximately 20 million college students at 5,300 different schools in the United States. With over 1,800 majors, undergraduates have almost limitless opportunity.

Discover things we’re passionate about. Compared to universities, students in high school have very limited academic opportunities. Most of us can’t even imagine the areas of study that are available as we complete our core competency classes and move on to electives. These discoveries allow us to fulfill who we want to become. For example, one third of college students working for their bachelor degrees change their major at least once. If you think about it, that’s not a negative statistic - it’s evidence that students are encountering new fields of study, learning about their strengths and acting on the opportunities discovered.

Many financial and career benefits. On average, college graduates make $1 million more than non-graduates over their lifetime. That’s 56% more in your yearly paycheck. Keep it simple: If you can make $40,000 without a degree, that seems pretty good to an 18 year old. When you get out of college assuming the 56% average puts you over $62,000 - a difference of $1,000/month. Students can research majors by anticipated starting salaries and improve their chances of starting salaries of well over $62,000. In 2016, Business Insider listed 25 majors starting salaries over $62,000. The most profitable were Petroleum Engineering, Physician Assistant, Computer Science and Mining Engineering, with top starting salaries all over $70,000 and median mid-career pay over $103,000. Student loan repayment may be heavy, but the amount you’d earn in the long run has proven to be significantly greater. The future of Hawaii depends on our financial success and going to college is the best way to achieve that.

There are resources designed to help us succeed. Programs like the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders that have classes and conferences to help students develop and become part of the solution, to keep changing the paradigm.

Although the upfront costs of college are daunting, If we apply ourselves and study a major that has the potential for a top starting salary, then all students can have some assurance that the investment is worth it.