On January 30, the World Affairs Council of New Jersey welcomed participants from different backgrounds to its speaker event featuring Mr. Brendan Ryan, who has numerous credentials working in the immigration system in Australia and other parts of the world. The event was organized by the Council with the leadership of Mrs. Rozlyn Engel, who emphasizes that this is the first Council in New Jersey among many in the nation. They want to further foster these discussions with new perspectives in order to provide more fruitful dialogue in the current political climate.
Amanda Gutierrez, a first-year Diplomacy student, expressed her thoughts on her first sight at a public forum. “It is a good practice introducing myself to people and learning how to network,” said Amanda. “I think if more students went to events like these, they would be more successful in finding internships and establishing yourself amongst professionals.”
With a humorous tone, Mr. Ryan commenced the evening by addressing where he stands politically, saying that he is ready to receive criticisms without being apologetic toward what he does not believe in. Though he is a liberal, his rhetoric on immigration could appear radical and discriminatory, which he mentioned later in the question and answer portion.
Having said that, Mr. Ryan focused initially on the situation in Europe where Brexit is a reality. He noted that the rhetoric that caused Brexit created a domino effect throughout Europe. Interestingly, he asserted that Europeans are not very willing to assist refugees from conflict-prone regions, as citizens from neighboring countries. With that, he raised the need for immigration technology, like a facial recognition system or similar mechanisms, in which people would be educated on immigration regulations.
He, then, spoke of the United States, where the immigration issue is as its most relevant due to the upcoming presidential election. Mr. Ryan firstly addresses that though he believes that immigration is generally good for the US., he can appear as an extreme far-right on this particular issue. He asserts that immigration is seen as a political weapon in the US and the recent travel ban policy is just intensifying the issue.
The event got heated when he laid out his ideal vision/solution for the issue. He quickly discredited the open-border policy and said that it would drastically decline the standard of living overall in the US, and also pointed out the weakness of family reunion-based immigration, which he argued that currently makes the system more vulnerable than it already is.
Citing the example of Australia, his vision is to see the US. implement a more high-skilled immigration system where potential immigrants are evaluated based on points and necessary skills for the workforce. Responding to a question on identifying the priorities for the point-based programs, he is astonished that only 12 percent of U.S. immigration is for work purposes, which is too low in his opinion. He hopes that there will be some reevaluation to look for long-term prospects in this context.
Another point would be to petition the government to amend its Constitution to abandon the idea of birthright citizenship, which he claims incentivizes immigrants to stay for citizenship through their children.
In regard to guest-worker programs, there will be no guarantee of staying afterward with only a 5-6 months period of working; according to Mr. Ryan, this period is for workers to learn necessary skills to bring them back to their countries in an effort to repatriate these individuals, thus, raise the standard of living within their country. He says that this, in turn, reduces the likelihood of people leaving their countries to find a better life elsewhere.
Understanding that the audience gave a mixed response to some of the questions, Mr. Ryan emphasized that while many parts of his eventual goal are unattainable, there are realistic expectations that will need to be set in order to achieve practical reform. Unapologetically, he responded that this kind of system is discriminatory, and it is a reality that will have to be accepted by the majority.
Admittedly, in some questions regarding the practicality in the context of climate change or oversea jobs affecting migration and wages, Mr. Ryan has no substantial answer because these cases are often politicized and unpredictable, to say the least. He reasserts his inputs on maintaining a long-term outlook on immigration issues despite the controversy it might inspire.