Mass Migration: Where Interests and Values Collide

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Mendoza College of Business signature lecture series, Ten Years Hence. We invite you to join with us to see and hear a variety of experts talk about this year’s topic, framed around a question: “Is Globalism Dead?”

Some of our speakers will say the answer is “yes,” while others will say, “definitely not.” Still others aren’t so sure, offering a qualified, “perhaps.” Friday, April 21, 2023 at 10:40am ET, David Robinson joined us to speak on “Mass Migration: Where Interests and Values Collide.” Experience the series virtually with 75 current Notre Dame students in Jordan Auditorium for a session that promises to be engaging, informative, and fun.

Join us on select Friday mornings throughout the spring semester to learn more about the global economy and a range of related issues such as global health concerns, migration, global governance, and the intersection of public policy and the public good. 


David Robinson, Former Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana

The seventh event in the 2023 Ten Years Hence lecture series Is Globalism Dead on ThinkND featured David Robinson, American Diplomat and Ambassador to Guyana (Retired), United States Senior Foreign Service. In this talk, Ambassador Robinson discussed the issues of global immigration and mass migration.

Robinson opened his discussion by reminding the audience how essential immigration is to the American national identity. Through his retelling of the mass migration of thousands of people from unstable Kosovo to the United States, Robinson unpacked his perspective on the lives of refugees and how he grapples with different global issues of immigration. While he sympathized deeply with Kosovar immigrants in the early 2000s, he does not feel the same sense of outrage toward the migration issue at the US southern border. However, he also recognized that the United States is an immigrant nation and that much good can come from immigration. Robinson differentiated his responses as one being a feeling of emotional distress for immigrants at a far-away border, and the other being a feeling of hesitancy for immigrants at one’s own border. He explained how safety and security, resource availability and underlying circumstances influence the reaction to different immigration situations. 

Robinson explained the importance of harmonious migration policies between countries to ensure already vulnerable migrants are not put at greater risk as they move from country to country. The Global Compact for Migration, not signed by the United States, helps immigrants be recognized as legal human beings and ensures that they are able to transfer and receive cash, become employed and buy property, rather than being undocumented floaters invisible to all nations. Robinson believes that the United States is responsible for protecting state sovereignty and ensuring the safety of migrants as human beings. 

Most of Robinson’s discussion involved questions and answers from the audience and host James O’Rourke. When asked about political party agreement, Robinson explained that historically Republicans and Democrats have agreed on immigration issues, but recent years have led to more disagreement concerning the number of migrants allowed to enter the country rather than the composition of immigrant choices. Robinson continued turning to examples of immigrant stories of success and inspiration, including a boy he met in Kosovo, the lost boys of Sudan and shepherds working in Montana. Robinson and O’Rourke also considered how those with high S.A.T. (legal stability, agricultural systems, and technology) scores might influence the economy of a country to which they migrate differently than an individual with a lower S.A.T. score. Robinson emphasized the importance of considering the underlying human genius in each person, rather than cherry-picking immigrants based on the hard skills they offer or the countries from which they come.

Visit the event page for more.

  • Immigration is essential to the national identity of the United States, making the country diverse, economically healthy and patriotic. (4:20)
  • Most Americans agree on immigration and are proud to be a nation of immigrants. Rather, what divides Americans is border control and how many people have the right to make a life in the United States. (21:10)
  • Disjointed international migration policies make immigration issues larger and put vulnerable migrants at greater risk. (25:15)
  • United States refugee policy allows more immigrants with high vulnerability and serious needs to enter the country instead of prioritizing highly skilled workers. (33:30)
  • Individuals with high S.A.T. scores–meaning they come from a country with legal stability, agriculture, and technology–often contribute positively to a new country’s economy. However, cherry-picking immigrants with higher S.A.T. scores ignores the potential genius that could be from less advanced countries. (48:20)

  • “The United States has always been an immigrant nation. Immigration continues to sustain us… and yet, we haven’t created a Tower of Babel. We have a country that works. We move forward out of this. It’s a good news story, and we are proud of our immigrant heritage.” (David Robinson, 10:25)
  • “I think we do have a bifurcated view of immigration. On the one hand, we’re a country proud of immigration. On the other hand, we’re not so sure about migrants, and we’ve never been so sure about migrants. We’ve always had a sort of hesitancy.” (David Robinson, 16:35)
  • “It’s very important that we distinguish–as we think about migration, mass migration, and immigration–between border control, which is our sovereign right to control, and migration, which by its very nature is a multilateral issue over which we bear some responsibility for making sure that not only are we protecting state sovereignty and the rights of states but also the health and the well-being of the migrants themselves.” (David Robinson, 28:55)
  • “What we have to do is work to create the conditions under which we can effectively control the border, which we can’t today, in my view, because we’re not really addressing the migration issues. We’re waiting till they become border issues and then we start to address them, and that’s way too late in the game.” (David Robinson, 37:50)
  • “In general, people who are willing to put their lives out there like that are the same people that crossed the plains in covered wagons. You want people that are willing to move and have that energy and that courage.” (David Robinson, 48:20)

BusinessDavid Robinsondigest222GlobalismGuyanaJim O'RourkeMendoza College of BusinessSecretary of StateU.S. AmbassadorUniversity of Notre Dame

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