President Greene Takes Part in New England Business Immigration Summit Urging Federal Immigration Reform

Colby College President David A. Greene spoke about the importance of attracting and retaining global students and citizens to the United States during the New England Business Immigration Summit on Feb. 19.

The virtual event focused on the many benefits of advancing federal immigration reform in 2021. Greene, along with Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Angus King, I-Maine, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow, Tyson Foods Vice President David Barber, Exelon Chairman Emeritus John Rowe, and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals President Yvonne Greenstreet joined over 200 business leaders, CEOs, university presidents, dreamers, essential workers, and advocates to advance sensible immigration solutions this year. 

“At Colby, we have joined with individuals, foundations, and the federal government—with thanks to Senators Collins and King—to invest $150 million in our city to create economic opportunities and revitalize the historic downtown,” Greene said. “We are committed to supporting sustainable redevelopment and growing economic prosperity in our state. But we face strong headwinds in Maine and across northern New England.”

Building a strong workforce is essential for Maine, which has the oldest population in the country, a higher death rate than birth rate, declining high school graduation rate, and low foreign-born population. 

“These statistics should be ringing alarm bells for all of us who care about the future of New England,” Greene said. “The number one question we are asked by companies looking to relocate to Maine is if there will be a labor market to fill the new jobs. If we do not act quickly, we will not be able to provide any assurance of a robust workforce.” 

While there isn’t one solution to the challenges the region is facing, the Waterville revitalization effort provides a blueprint for other cities that need to regrow their populations and reinvent their economic base, according to Greene.

“This is the moment to ensure that the U.S. is their permanent home, that states like Maine will be the beneficiaries of their intelligence, drive, courage, and ingenuity."

— President David A. Greene

“In the end, though, the most fundamental changes have to come through a northern migration and an influx of new Americans—a recipe that led to Maine’s economic and population growth in the early 20th century. Colleges are key to this effort but hardly the sole contributor. It is essential that we not only attract talented individuals from across the globe to our colleges and universities, but that we also have a clear set of incentives to benefit from the talent and productivity of these individuals when they graduate. We need to keep them here,” said Greene, who is a member of the Presidents’ Alliance.

In speaking about Colby’s talented and courageous Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, Greene emphasized that they live in fear that at any time, they could be taken from the only home they have ever known. 

“At Colby we know global experiences transform the lives of young people, but DACA students avoid [these experiences], concerned they will be denied re-entry to the U.S,” said Greene, who added that these internship and research opportunities are critical to postgraduate outcomes. 

“This is the moment to ensure that the U.S. is their permanent home, that states like Maine will be the beneficiaries of their intelligence, drive, courage, and ingenuity,” Greene said of Colby’s DACA students. 

The summit was held to educate, engage, and motivate New England business, university, and elected leaders on the importance of passing commonsense federal and state immigration reform measures critical to the country’s economic recovery. More about the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is on the White House website

Greene’s comments from the summit were cited in an Associated Press story picked up by media across the country.