07/14/2014 09:45 am ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

Importing "Techies" Is NOT an Immigration or Education Policy


Will the impasse on immigration reform soon be solved now that Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates are on the job? Not likely! Their solution ignores the fundamental reasons for the problem and would probably make other problems facing the United States, especially educational inequity and unemployment, significantly worse. The Adelson-Buffett-Gates immigration proposal appeared in an op-ed piece, "Break the Immigration Impasse," in The New York Times on July 11, 2014 (page A25). According to this troika (a Russian term for three-horses pulling a sled or a three-headed leadership team), "The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us . . . You don't have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement."

Who are these three who are prepared to solve the nation's most thorny problems? While they have different politics, which they readily admit, what they share in common is that they are very rich and are each committed to market or capitalist solutions to major social problems, such as those surrounding immigration and education, because market solutions made them so rich. Sheldon Adelson is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. He is also a major financier of right-wing Republican Party politicians with close ties to Chinese casino interests and pro-Israel groups. According to Forbes, in 2014 he was the 8th richest person in the world. Warren Buffett is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, perhaps the world's leading hedge fund. Buffet was considered the world's wealthiest individual in 2008, but has since slipped to third place with wealth valued at about $60 billion. Buffett supports the global market system that generated his enormous wealth but believes it is necessary to address some of its inequities, which is why he donated a lot of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates is the former chairman and CEO of Microsoft. Forbes and Bloomberg both list him as the current wealthiest person in the world. Since retiring from the actual operation of Microsoft, Gates has concentrated on reshaping the world using his immense personal fortune and the resources of his foundation. One of his greatest interests has been education reform in the United States.

Now that Adelson has resolved the Israel-Palestine crisis, Buffett has ironed at the inequities of the capitalist market system, and Gates has put education in the United States on the right track, the three of them are allied to solve the problem of immigration [Please note the intended sarcasm!]. Their proposal is to "remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment."

Unfortunately, this proposal is neither an immigration policy nor an education policy. In fact it is an anti-education policy that also fails to take into account the underlying cause of the current flood of undocumented immigrants.

What the Adelson-Buffett-Gates troika is actually proposing is a way to continue to recruit low cost high tech labor for their corporate ventures. This way they and their friends can get all the foreign-born "techies" they need for their businesses, without having to pay higher taxes to support a public education system that prepares young people already living in the United States for these jobs. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently demanded that the states come up with plans to put excellent teachers in all classrooms in order to prepare every child for college or a career. States that fail to come up with a plan risk losing federal dollars. What Obama and Duncan did not explain, and cannot explain, is what the excellent teachers are supposed to prepare these young people to do, where the money will come to prepare and pay for these excellent teachers, and what 21st century jobs look like, especially when it is already so easy for the Adelsons, Buffetts, and Gateses of the world to outsource work overseas or import foreign students who have already received basic training at someone else's expense.

As a social studies and history teacher, I encourage students to examine the push and pull factors that promote people to migrate from one country to another, something that drove them to leave their original homeland and something that brought them to the United States. There are differences from historical era to era and from one region of the world or ethnic group to another, but there are also some very consistent patterns. Sometimes the push and pull were economic. Sometimes people fled political or religious persecution. The new miracle bipartisan rich people solution proposed by the Adelson-Buffett-Gates troika totally ignores the push and pull factors today, which are not hard to figure out. In fact, they are on the front page of the newspapers almost daily.

Traditional cultures and ways of life in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, have been destroyed by the forces of globalization promoted by the United States. Village life died when American mass-produced corn, as a result of the 1990s NAFTA treaty, flooded local markets there wiping out a system of subsistence agriculture that had been the basis of community existence for hundreds of years. People had the hard choice of crossing the border into the United States without documentation to seek work, moving into overcrowded urban slums, the population of greater Mexico City by some estimates is approaching 24 million people, or working for criminal cartels exporting illegal drugs to an insatiable United States market. On July 9, 2014, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion additional in funding to halt the flood of refugees crossing into the United States from Mexico and Central America, many of whom are children traveling without parents or other adults hoping to find asylum and a better future. For Adelson-Buffett-Gates this world does not exist so they can ignore how the same forces that made them incredibly rich left these people incredibly poor and desperate.

In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed hellhound with a mane of snakes and lion's claws that guards the gates of hell to prevent the dead from escaping. I do not think we want a modern day wealthy three-headed "Cerberus" deciding U.S. immigration and education policy, or any other national policy for that matter. I do not trust them.