Question about Ebola and skilled immigration
This question is part of the Stop Amnesty Challenge. See that page for the details on the Challenge.
This is the basic question:
I'd like to ask you about immigration to the U.S. by skilled professionals, something you support.
Liberia is one of the countries hit hardest by Ebola. Earlier this year, there were only around 200 doctors in all of Liberia. Under the policies you support, any number of those doctors could have immigrated to the U.S. If you'd had your way, twenty of those Liberian doctors could have moved here, or 100 of them, or even all of them.
Is it ethical to deprive countries like Liberia of the doctors they desperately need? Please answer that specific question: is depriving countries like Liberia of desperately needed doctors ethical, yes or no?
These are the notes on the question, including possible follow-ups:
- Print out the references at  in case anyone has any questions and wants background information.
- Scan through the introduction and the posts on the skilled immigration page to familiarize yourself with the wider topic.
- Make sure and say "earlier this year" and "around 200", because estimates vary and some doctors left the country after the outbreak started.
- The second and third sentences could be swapped and/or combined, if that flows better for you. However, putting Ebola early in the question will tend to cause people not to tune out. After the third sentence, you could repeat the figure for emphasis: "A country of 4 million people, and it only had around 200 doctors." To help drive the point home and to bring the audience into it, you could also say something like "that's only about twice as many the number of people in this room" while sweeping your arm across the audience. But, only do that if doing things like fits in with your personality; try not to startle anyone.
- The first sentence should be replaced with a summary of one of the politician's quotes if possible. For instance, it could be replaced with: "In 2013, you said we should 'staple a green card' to the diplomas of foreign citizens who graduate from U.S. colleges." Whether you use one of their quotes or not, it's important to print out the source for your claim that they support skilled immigration. If you can't find such a source (or that source is contradicted by something they said later), please don't ask this question.
- If the politician goes into a speech about how the U.S. and other countries are sending aid workers, interrupt them: "Pardon me for interrupting, but you didn't answer my question. The U.S. and other countries sending large numbers of doctors abroad is not a sustainable solution. The only sustainable solution is a larger number of doctors who live and work in countries like Liberia. A larger number of doctors there could have helped reduce the spread of the Ebola virus. Let me ask you again, is it ethical to deprive countries like Liberia of the doctors they desperately need to fight things like Ebola, yes or no?"
- If the politician goes into a speech about the global competition for talent, interrupt them: "One way to deal with that is to encourage skilled professionals to stay in developing countries. That will help those countries (and thereby help the U.S. for reasons I could go into), and at the same time that will prevent countries like China from attracting that talent. So far, all I've heard from you is competing with China by being just like them. But, maybe I'm wrong. Has any past legislation that you've sponsored sought to encourage skilled professionals to stay in their own, developing countries, yes or no?"
- If the politician asks how helping developing countries hang on to skilled professionals would help the U.S., point out that skilled professionals can help build up the middle class in those countries and spur investment, economic growth, and social stability. That will lead to the U.S. spending less on foreign aid, spending less on responses to health crises, and so on. It will lead to more regional stability, a lower likelihood of corrupt leaders, fewer wars, and so on.
- If the politician brings up remittances (not likely, but it might happen), point out that living on remittances is like living on candy. They make foreign countries dependent on the U.S., they make foreign countries more likely to send people here illegally (e.g., the billions sent home to Mexico are a strong disincentive for them to keep people there), they prop up corrupt governments, and it's difficult to build up native-grown industries when smarter people have left.
- If the politician says he wouldn't support taking doctors from countries like Liberia (or he says he only wants immigration of STEM workers), say something like: "Great, I'm glad we somewhat agree. Could you please tell us which countries could stand to lose skilled professionals to other countries? Could the U.S. afford to lose 1000 top, native-born doctors or engineers to Canada? Around 3500 to 6000 students in Mexico excel in math each year. If Mexico were able to retain all of them - rather than them coming to the U.S. - wouldn't that make things better in Mexico, and wouldn't making things better in Mexico make things better in the U.S.?" Make sure not to pause after "Canada"; otherwise the politician might try to pivot into an off-topic discussion or joke around.
- If the politician accuses you of wanting to stop all immigration and/or goes into a speech about how we're a nation of immigrants, immediately interrupt them. If they put words in your mouth, say so and ask them not to misrepresent your position. And, say something like: "No, I'm not calling for ending all immigration, just reducing it from what we have now. And, I'm calling for realizing that our immigration policy can have damaging impacts on foreign countries: in Liberia it can make Ebola outbreaks worse, in Mexico it can reduce their development, and so on. The immigration policies you've supported in the past would not have, for instance, prevented half of Liberia's very small number of doctors from coming here if they could. If that isn't an accurate representation of your position up to now, please let all of us know."
 Print out this listing:
Liberia's population is nearly four million, but there are only 120 doctors and three dentists in the entire country.
When the country's most recent civil war ended in 2003, the country relied on about 50 doctors to care for the entire nation of more than 3 million people. Since then, the ranks of Liberian doctors haven't increased much. And the lack of trained personnel has made combating the current outbreak of Ebola all the harder.
Liberia, population four million, has fewer than 250 doctors left in the entire country, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council.
"Less than 200 doctors existed in this country of 4 million people prior to this epidemic. After the outbreak in March of this year, that number plummeted to only 50 doctors."
"Brain drain" or ethical recruitment? (Background on the issue from 2004. From an Australian perspective but still applicable in this case).
America Is Stealing the World's Doctors
Number in Mexico who excel at math in "Producing superstars for the economic Mundial: The Mexican Predicament with quality of education" by Lant Pritchett and Martina Viarengo (Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, November 19, 2008, PDF at peekURL.com/zp677t8 )