The swelling river of humanity flowing into northern Europe has become frightening and the horrific scenes have not escaped global attention.  The people stampede brings to light the desperation screaming out from embattled nations. Simply put…families are fleeing death and hoping to find life by crossing borders.  The subject matter in these scenes is very old. However, the current sheer numbers reaching biblical proportions astounds us. Governments grapple with how to process so many with so little time while offering proponents of isolationism the opportunity to wax.

As a mandate, it has become a ritual across the US. In late summer and early fall, employees and professors of community and city colleges become part of the frontline of immigration assimilation.

The beginning of the road to becoming part of the American culture begins with a good education. For those who cannot afford university there are the government subsidized colleges, sanctioned to perform that duty. Imagine having to maneuver the intricate documentation to acquire educational visas in American, when English is not your native tongue. According to The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, 24% of the 6.5 million students registered last year had immigrant backgrounds.   Tasking government assets to help people relocate is tremendous. It requires collective resources of both state and federal governments. Nevertheless, the return on investment is priceless.

I was once a city employee allocated during open registration to assist those displaced and to lessen the difficulties.

Enduring the sometimes-long hours of registration, we gazed into war weary faces, listening intently to the horror stories. Each year a different ethnic group crowded the rooms. They mirrored the current political or/and economic global environments. The lucky few arrived to registration prepackaged. Treasuring in newly minted folders labeled with housing addresses and green card information. The education enrollment included the prescribed ESL (English as a Second Language) class lists.  The dispossessed were often doctors, sports stars, teachers, carpenters, homemakers and parents.  The one common thread linking them all was the abandonment of beloved countries.  Nevertheless, they brought with them the most valuable gift – knowledge.

Countries stripped bare of the intellect find it harder to return to a robust economy.  How do you rebuild infrastructure, human services and grow without those with the needed skills to rebuild. In 1960-65, the term brain drain came into use. It is the description of the migration of intellectuals from one country to another.

Attached to each green card are talent and intellectual resources that will contribute to the well-being of economic constructs, and GDP (gross domestic product) of the newly adopted country. As city college staff, I led a multinational biology lab team that filled me with amazement each day. I watched the daily ebb and flow of angry words and laughter until a miraculous binding of purpose and a circle of trusted friends came to be. They were Russian Jew, Puerto Rican, red haired Persians from Iran and Assyrians. All came together with cultural baggage few of us will ever understand. We adapted the little behavioral nuances to become friends.  Through differing politics, language and cultures, we became a solid team and they went on to excel according to their individual goals.

During post World War II, many governments witnessed the ‘brain drain”.  Immigrants became creators of wealth and prosperity, contributing to the national GDP of their newly adopted countries. United States was one of the biggest recipients of this boon. Yet many global lawmakers, politicians and pundits vacillate or outright refuse to adopt or amend immigration laws that can and will help those seeking asylum.

People are a nation’s wealth.

We cannot allow inhuman rhetoric to wrongly flavor this human moment. This time must stand in history as a period where people became true stewards of each other.