Support Merit-Based Immigration System

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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.