HHI Ethics Society
March 4, 2020
USCB Hospitality Center
Ethics Society co-chairs Neil Funnell, retired IBM executive, and Dr. Gordon Haist, USCB chancellor, presented information and moderated the discussion.
Neil asked questions to stimulate thinking on the topic:
Gordon suggested ethical decisions to determine who gets into the country:
What are the appropriate criteria?
Why has the politics of immigration become such a lightning rod?
He said that Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K., unlike the United States, require immigrants to have job skills, to speak English and to overcome a 70-point hurdle to immigrate legally.
He offered some useful definitions:
First case: A roofing contractor employs undocumented workers. Are they being exploited (low wages, lack of workmen’s insurance)? Does a cheap labor force undermine the economy? What should the person hiring the contractor have an obligation to do?
A member of the audience suggested the contractor may not necessarily be exploiting the workers but could be giving them much desired jobs. Gordon pointed out that they may be taking jobs away from Americans who would expect higher pay. Another audience member said the government had been unethical because of failing to enforce laws against hiring the undocumented and that Congress had been unethical because of failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform laws to address the issues as they exist today.
Case number two: Threatened with death, a Brazilian man and his pregnant wife reached the U.S. border, applied for asylum and were granted it, then separated for several months while the U.S. appealed the decision. Ultimately, he passed the test of credible fear. In the meantime, their baby was born in the United States. Such appeals by the government and separations exist in order to discourage refugees from coming to this country. Can the government ethically justify the separation?
From the audience came these questions and statements: Why didn’t the Brazilian seek refuge in a country closer to his home?
Why didn’t he go to the American Embassy in Brazil?
He paid the price for those who seek asylum and then do not show up for final adjudication.
The separation is a tactic for discouraging refugees.
Actually, as the U.S. population ages, we need new, younger people coming in.
Gordon pointed out that there were 7,216 deaths at the U.S. border between 1998 and 2017 compared to 239 deaths at the Berlin Wall during a similar length of time.
Case number three: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals of the Obama Administration addressed the problem of children brought to this country their parents who then become adults without appropriate documents to live and work here. The action is before the U.S. Supreme Court with a decision expected by June 2020. The Trump Administration says Obama exceeded his authority. Justice Sonia Sotomayor says it’s a “political decision.”
Audience members said: The DACA program was created because Congress failed to address the problem. Children brought to this country when they were 4 or 5 years old and are now 28 years old should be given green cards. Canada has a sensible immigration process and addresses refugees separately; we should learn from them. Californians helped thousands of Vietnamese refugees assimilate in thee 1970s.
Case number four: The “irony of words” affects how Americans address immigration issues. “Migration Protection Protocol” actually means hardships of many kinds for some would-be immigrants and refugees. The policy of requiring asylum-seekers to “Remain in Mexico” while their cases await attention has created unsafe and unsanitary conditions for thousands of people just south of the American border.
Audience members suggested that newcomers who assimilate are easier to accept than those who keep themselves apart and stick to their earlier culture and language.
Gordon suggested we think about this idea: When we in this country were productive, with good manufacturing jobs, the economy required immigrants. Now that we have gig economy, largely based on service jobs, immigrant families find it harder to assimilate.
This presentation was very well-attended and elicited a vibrant audience participation. Our thanks to Neil and Gordon for their most interesting and stimulating presentations. Thanks also to Fran Bollin for again providing this excellent summary.