On May 20, 2003, my wife Marilyn and I attended a dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. We were there to hear the guest speaker, President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo.
President Arroyo thanked America for all contributions made to Filipino life by Americans over more than the past century. She said, “Eight million Filipinos … live and work abroad and generate billions of dollars a year in revenue for our country. [Filipinos are] highly skilled, well educated, English-speaking [and because of this] comparative advantage, millions of Filipinos [are] working in over 140 countries in the world.”
Mrs. Arroyo continued, “[The] value[s] embedded in our people [are] in part … the legacy of America’s involvement in the Philippines. America gave the Philippines a great public education system. … Send us more Thomasites … the American teachers who went to the Philippines at the turn of the century and educated our people in English and many other things western, and that’s why we seem so similar today.”
Records show there where only 1,074 Thomasites, but this teacher corps built an education system in the Philippines that mirrored that of the United States. Filipinos were educated and trained to take over the education system, which they did well. The American language, culture, work ethic, free enterprise, values and way of life was infused into the Philippines. We are bonded together to this day with the third-largest English-speaking country in the world. The Philippines developed into a sustainable country built upon the foundation of the American civilization.
Thomasites were the precursor, the de facto pilot project, the inspiration for the Peace Corps. Only 1,074 teachers a century ago transformed the islands’ population of 8 million and placed them on a self-sustaining path, and today 8 million Filipinos are working in 140 countries on multiple continents, lifting up many millions more around the world. And today, there are just over 7,000 active Peace Corps workers scattered in as many as 140 countries. They make a significant difference in helping lift the Third World out of poverty and in building relationships between the United States and receiving nations. Americans support the Peace Corps because we have a humanitarian heart that lifted the Philippines and many other countries from despair.
What, then, could 750,000 Thomasites do for Mexico and Central America? What could be a better economic, social and cultural improvement plan, especially for our neighbors to the south? What could better bond us together, expand trade, establish an effective education system, and the rule of law? What better program could possibly be devised to help bring our neighbors to the south into the first world?
But where would we find 750,000 young American educated “volunteers” who speak English, carry with them the American work ethic, a paid-for American education, the American culture, and experience with the rule of law? Wouldn’t it be better if they were bilingual, fluent in the host country’s language, too? Even better if many already had familial relationships in some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the Third World?
Fortunately, President Obama has built a database (though unconstitutionally) that identifies exactly the universe of people who are perfectly poised to come to the aid of the impoverished and corrupt nation-states of the hemisphere and the world. It is the Dreamer database, otherwise known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, 750,000 individuals who exactly fit the criteria described above. How could the United States and primarily the Western Hemisphere be so fortunate as to have a perfect, ready-made solution poised to solve such an otherwise unsolvable problem? And just at the time when we have a president who has given his oath to do so.
President Trump pledged to end DACA and DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, on the first day of his presidency. More than 60 days in, the Trump administration continues to issue new permits and extend existing permits. It’s late, but not too late, to end the unconstitutional and lawless DACA program and return lawbreakers to their home countries where they were born. They will go back to their homes and their home communities.
Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, has stated on the Senate floor, “They are amazing.” If the Dreamers are of such value to their adopted country, how much greater value will they be to their countries of legal residence? And when they finish their tours of duty, they will be in the back of the line to come back to America, if they qualify. My bet? Dreamers would outperform Peace Corp workers and Thomasites by a country mile. One day, a future president of Mexico will give a speech in Washington, D.C., thanking the United States for our part in restoring the rule of law — in both countries.
• Steve King is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa.
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