While we cannot determine which direction immigration policy will take, most can agree that support for new policies will be the responsibility of all Americans. This is particularly vital for colleges and universities, as new laws and programs will change the way campuses think about recruitment, enrollment, marketing, curriculum and outreach as a result of what may come from Capitol Hill.
Fortunately, historically black colleges and universities are well positioned to lead the national conversation on the role of higher education in immigration policy implementation.Immigration touches industry, economics, social justice and American values; areas which all have been positively impacted by HBCUs infusing diversity into the American workforce and conscience.
But HBCUs also boast dozens of strong programs which have become national leaders in fields that are essenital for both border security and comprehensive immigration reform.
As ironic as it may seem that HBCUs have the kind of academic and training infrastructure that can support both demoractic and republican political outcomes on immigration, HBCU leaders should be actively working to showcase these programs to lawmakers who will be scrambling for partnerships to support whatver policies emerge in the effort to avoid a government shutdown.
Fortifying physical borders will require states to mobilize the nation’s leading talent in civil engineering. Schools like North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University and Morgan State University have for years cultivated the nation’s top minority talent in these areas, earning millions in public and private funding to advance curriculum and professional training opportunities.
Border infrastructure also demands for increased human resources in illegal immigration monitoring and response. At the border, this will mean schools like Norfolk State University and Bowie State University must develop pipelines for their top cybersecurity and computer science graduates who can help the nation to create technical systems to prevent illegal entry at low costs and low impact to the environment.
Beyond the border, this will require institutions like Texas Southern University and Florida A&M University, both of which feature colleges of law and public policy, to develop the legal advocates and analysts who will interpret and enforce immigration law – and the diplomats who will work with foreign nations to discourage illegal immigration while promoting international development.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave remarks today at the agency’s headquarters this morning to members of its student programs and fellowships, with the focus of the talk on building diversity within the department’s domestic and foreign service ranks. His remarks followed a specific denouncement of racist ideology and mistreatment of citizens through hate and discrimination.
For the United States to enforce its sovereignty while enacting policies which reflect its dignity and compassion for global neighbors, diversity will be a top priority. And this underscores the the other side of the immigration discussion; expanded opportunities for naturalization and citizenship.
Opportunities in these areas will require expertise in secondary education and social work; fields in which schools like Fayetteville State University, Winston-Salem State University and Southern University specialize. Workforce development pipelines in agriculture, tourism and public health will find particular strength at schools like Fort Valley State University, Virginia State University and Central State University, which have demonstrated unique capacity to serve students from hundreds of nations around the world.
HBCUs offer the United States a strong foundation for immigration reform, whether it is built upon merit-based naturalization or through broader visa programming. Our campuses offer welcoming, rigorous environments in which students from all backgrounds and nationalities can learn while being encouraged, and can emerge as credentialed professionals ready to support our national interests.
Politics aside, HBCUs can be good partners to the federal government’s new view of global citizenship on American shores. And that’s a great political place for HBCUs to live.