The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the undersigned members of the 2015 class of Ascend Fellows and don’t necessarily represent the views of the Aspen Institute. Ascend Fellows are entrepreneurial leaders with the vision to advance the educational success, economic security, and health and well-being of children and families.
It is with great concern that we watched the recent enactment of orders deeply affecting immigration and visitors to the United States. While this was done for the important purpose of protecting the United States, there will be significant effects on the well-being of this nation. As a group working in multiple sectors, spanning education, health, human services, policy, and research, we feel it necessary to highlight this issue.
In our careers, we have had the privilege of working with many Americans, both native-born and immigrants, across a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. We have learned from each and every one of them and consider ourselves the richer for having encountered them. Most of all, we have been touched by the love of immigrant parents, who have often gone to great lengths to bring their children a brighter, better future in the form of the American Dream. We are honored to work with those individuals in nurturing their desire to be the best parents they can be, for the benefit of their children, communities, and — ultimately — our nation.
Informed by the daily work we do, we cannot — and will not — stand by while policies are enacted that inflict severe and significant collateral damage on families, including young children. As we write this, families have found their members stranded in different countries. Children have been separated from their parents for long periods of time; in some cases, this is atop a war-torn country of origin and inflicts further trauma on them. Protecting our country is imperative, but our policies should not harm the innocent. Safety and security do support, protect, and allow prosperity, openness, opportunity, and freedom — but conversely, freedom, openness, and opportunity in turn allow for safety, security, and prosperity.
The science is very clear: disruption of safe, loving, reciprocal nurturing relationships leads to what is known as toxic stress, which affects neurodevelopment in ways that have deleterious lifelong implications for health and well-being. For our nation to enact policies that directly create toxic stress for any child, irrespective of who it is, is unethical and abhorrent in a modern society.
Consider the incredible potential that reaches our shores. People from all over the world come to the United States to study and make a better life. Our history would indicate that even those who have arrived under difficult conditions have made incredible contributions to our society. Our concern is that we not only turn away that potential, but we also diminish it in those already here by creating family disruption, fear, and uncertainty.
Immigration of all types is the wind that moves our country forward. Immigrants contribute much-needed work, skills, and intellectual drive that have — and will — continue to keep America’s place in innovation, prosperity, and thought in the forefront. The issue is that our sails — namely our policies — are not designed to make the best use of the wind, and the result is a mismatch between our resources and our country’s needs.
Let’s adjust the sails to embrace the wind, so we all move this boat forward together. Together as families, together as communities, and together as a nation.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute 2015 Fellows
Dipesh Navsaria, MD, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health – @navsaria
Kirsten Lodal, LIFT – @kirsten_lodal @LIFTcommunities
Sarah Enos Watamura, PhD, University of Denver
Laurie Brotman, PhD, New York University School of Medicine
Myra Jones Taylor, PhD, Early Childhood Consultant – @myrajonestaylor
Darius Tandon, PhD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Sherece West-Scantlebury, PhD, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation – @ShereceWest
Aisha Nyandoro, PhD, Springboard to Opportunities – @NyandoroSTO
Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, PhD, Queens College
Roxane White, MDiv, MSW, Human Services – @RoxPWhite
Katherine Winograd, PhD, Central New Mexico Community College
John Annis, Sergeant Major (ret), United States Marine Corps – @JohnCFSC
Maria Harper-Marinick, PhD, Higher Education Administrator
Kevin Jordan, Community Developer