Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Immigration Policy Should No Longer Be Overshadowed by 9/11.

The Economist has a review of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent by Vivek Wadhwa. The review makes the point that since 9/11 the United States immigration policy has kept out the most important immigrants that the nation must attract -- those who would contribute to our economy, providing necessary skills and creating new enterprises.
Life in immigration limbo is wretched. Immigrants on H1-B visas, which are issued to skilled workers, must be sponsored by a specific employer. They cannot change jobs without imperilling their application. Their careers stagnate. They do not know whether they will be deported, so they hesitate to put down roots, buy a house or start a company. Sometimes their spouses are barred from working. In some states their spouses cannot even obtain a driving licence, as if they were female and living in Saudi Arabia. Fewer and fewer talented people are prepared to put up with such treatment, and they have plenty of other options. They know that Canada, Australia and Singapore hand out visas swiftly and without fuss. If they are from a poor country, they know that there are opportunities back home....... 
Since no nationality may receive more than 7% of employment-based green cards, Chinese and Indian applicants are treated more harshly than citizens of less populous nations. The time they must spend in limbo has shot up. If they have a great idea for a new company, they can go home and start it straight away. In America, if they quit their day job, they may be deported. 
In a survey, Mr Wadhwa found that most Indian and Chinese students in America expect problems in obtaining a work visa when they graduate, regardless of the demand for their skills. An unprecedented number now plan to go home.

Immigration reform is overdue. We are living with the hangover from the excessively fearful reaction to the 2001 terrorist attack. Moreover, the United States has a long history of racist immigration policies that shames the nation. 36 percent of the world's population live in China and India, yet these huge countries are limited to 7 percent each of our green cards. This is in spite of the fact that Asian immigrants show up very well on all our statistics.

As I focus in this blog on knowledge for development, and especially the economic potentials of the developing knowledge economy, let me emphasize the importance of attracting highly educated, innovative and entrepreneurial immigrants from where ever they may be, including Asia.

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