Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Markets, Immigration, and Education

A friend pointed me to this story about foreign teachers being forced to leave the country, which really ties together well three very important issues.
Gelmer Suganob has been teaching special education classes for four years in Prince Georges County, a suburban district near Washington, DC. The Filipino teacher started an autism program in a local middle school and received glowing job reports.

He’s one of thousands of foreign teachers who have been filling the ranks of US classrooms for the past few years, spurred by a shortage of American teachers and new testing requirements for math, science and special education. Like Suganob, many of these teachers come from the Philippines. They’re hired by recruiting companies in their home country and pay big fees to land lucrative jobs in the US.

But despite his stellar reviews, Suganob recently got a double dose of bad news. He received a call telling him that he had overstayed his visa, and that he no longer had a job.
Some of the comments on this story were amusing. "Teaching shortage?" people ask. How can there be a teaching shortage with some teachers losing their jobs? Note the specializations mentioned: "math, science and special education." Surely Americans aren't naive enough to think we have plenty of those to go around. Seriously, do people even know why our public education is so notoriously bad?

Let me break this down. There are three key issues at stake here:
  1. A man who's done nothing wrong is now being forced to leave our country and work somewhere else because of an ineffective system of paperwork. In short, a man's right to his own labor is being violated.
  2. Our irrational fear of immigration, based almost entirely on issues which have absolutely nothing to do with teachers arriving from the Philippines, has created an environment in which our laws prohibit the market from working to resolve important issues, such as the education of our children (particularly disadvantaged ones). In short, immigration policy is economic policy.
  3. Did I mention this hurts our school system?
And this is why, whenever I hear some ridiculous conservative speech designed to arouse anti-immigrant sentiment, I just cringe and wonder how people who profess faith in the "free market" can be so profoundly ignorant about these important issues. I can't say it any clearer than this: belief in the free market demands belief in an open immigration system. I'm not saying have no borders. I'm simply saying, in general our tendency should be to let people in and do what they want. Everyone benefits from this. No one is "stealing jobs." Quite the opposite, if you look at the whole. Greater efficiency in one area of the market means greater efficiency for everyone.

This is why, when we think about the issue of immigration, these are the types of cases we need to keep in mind, not some fear-mongering about drug dealers on the Mexican border.

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