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A Statement on Immigration and American Opportunity

Our country, and the talent that has shaped its prosperity, is defined in no small measure by the hard work, inspiration, and ingenuity of people who choose to settle here, often escaping hardship in their home countries. The recent executive order calling for a halt on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations should cause us all to stop and reflect on its impact on our nation’s ideals and our ability to meet future economic and social challenges. This nation’s central promise is one of welcoming the world’s poor and weary, those who seek freedom and a brighter tomorrow. Immigrants and refugees are animated by the dream of greater opportunity, and it’s no accident that immigrants are disproportionately represented in the ranks of America’s great entrepreneurs, innovators and civic leaders.

The executive order is a step back from the values and ideals that define us.

Even as we struggle with the fact that many are losing faith in the American narrative of opportunity for all, we must remain true to the long-held values that have enabled the United States to integrate tens of millions of people from diverse races, religions, and cultures to form a distinct American identity. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that our nation is strengthened by its diversity. That diverse American identity has long been animated by a post-high school learning system that supports individual and intellectual freedom, promotes social and economic mobility, and creates opportunities to build strong communities and better lives. These values are the fabric of who we are.

High-quality postsecondary attainment is increasingly the key to promoting those values and driving our future success as a nation. College campuses and other higher learning environments often are the first places that young people gain an understanding of how to participate meaningfully in a society that is increasingly global and competitive. Talented immigrants unable to enter the United States—or unable to come back if they return home for visits—are likely to go elsewhere, taking their potential contributions with them while placing our world leadership and moral authority at risk.

Immigrants are a vital part of the richness of American society, including in our nation's higher education institutions. They contribute as professors, students, researchers, and scholars by significantly enhancing the vibrant communities of learning in which our next generation of leaders and citizens are educated. Our nation's pool of talent and our democracy will be damaged and diminished if our nation abandons its historical commitment to welcoming immigrants into our communities—including our communities of higher learning.

Rather than turn our backs on those who seek a better life, we should be looking for ways to ensure that we always remain a nation of immigrants. The executive order is a step back from the values and ideals that define us. We join the thousands of U.S. faculty members and the many other education, philanthropic, business and civic leaders who have called for the Executive Order to be rescinded. We urge a return to a welcoming policy that lifts up the value of immigrants and refugees as fundamental to American talent and an enduring benefit to us all as Americans.

-Jamie Merisotis, on behalf of Lumina Foundation

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Lucia Anderson Weathers
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