Perspective: What IF People 'Go Back?'

Aug 12, 2019

A Marvel character snaps his fingers and half of our population turns into dust. That is an alluring thought for some. What if a large swath of our population not born in the U.S. similarly exited, to “go back home?”  

Actually, we don’t need to imagine this scenario. U.S. immigration laws prior to the mid-20th century were written and interpreted in ways that actively deterred the naturalization of those who were not “free white persons.” And it was not until 1965, when a system of national quotas was abolished, that we began attracting skilled labor and reunifying families.  

Today, more than 16% of the U.S. workforce is foreign born. It is estimated that 25% - 30% of all doctors in our country received their undergraduate training in a different nation -- many in Iran and Syria. Also, chances are 4 in 10 that your internal-medicine or critical care specialist was born elsewhere.  

Foreign-born individuals participate in the workforce at higher rates -- 66% than those who are native born (60%), and it is estimated that a quarter of all new businesses were started by immigrants.  

In higher education, recent research suggests that foreign born faculty are significantly more productive than their native peers, publishing 1 article per year for the latter’s .60. So, overall, immigration benefits us, at the national level.  

Well, how about our own community?  

A few years ago, I attended the funeral services for a Sycamore doctor born thousands of miles away. Hundreds of people reflecting Sycamore’s demographics lined up to pay him their last respects. They spoke to each other of his expertise and demeanor, and how the treatment they had received from him had made all the difference.  

What if he had been asked to “go back?” Worse -- what if he had actually heeded that call?  

I am Mahesh Subramony, and this is my perspective.