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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who Would Cross the Bridge of Death Must Answer Me These Questions Three!

The chairman of Intel, Craig Barrett, joins Gary Becker in saying we need to open our doors to the “best and brightest”:

America should open its doors wide to foreign talent, by Craig Barrett, Commentary, Financial Times: America is experiencing a profound immigration crisis but it is not about the 11m illegal immigrants... The real crisis is that the US is closing its doors to immigrants with degrees in science, maths and engineering – the “best and brightest” ... who flock to the country for its educational and employment opportunities. ... This is not a new issue; the US has been partially dependent on foreign scientists and engineers ... for several decades. After the second world war, an influx of German engineers bolstered our efforts in aviation and space research. During the 1960s and 1970s, a brain drain from western Europe supplemented our own production of talent. In the 1980s and 1990s, our ranks of scientists and engineers were swelled by Asian immigrants who came to study in our universities, then stayed to pursue professional careers.

The US simply does not produce enough home-grown graduates in engineering and the hard sciences to meet our needs. ... So while Congress debates how to stem the flood of illegal immigrants across our southern border, it is actually our policies on highly skilled immigration that may most negatively affect the American economy.

The US does have a specified process for granting admission or permanent residency to foreign engineers and scientists. The H1-B visa programme sets a cap – currently at 65,000... But the programme is oversubscribed because the cap is insufficient to meet the demands of the knowledge-based US economy. The system does not grant automatic entry to all foreign students who study engineering and science at US universities. I have often said, only half in jest, that we should staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign student who graduates from an advanced technical degree programme here.

At a time when we need more science and technology professionals, it makes no sense to invite foreign students to study at our universities, educate them partially at taxpayer expense and then tell them to go home and take the jobs those talents will create home with them. ... Certainly ... security must always be a foremost concern. But that concern should not prevent us from having access to the highly skilled workers we need. ..

In a global, knowledge-based economy, businesses will naturally gravitate to locations with a ready supply of knowledge-based workers. ... Deciding to compete means reforming the appalling state of primary and secondary education, ... and urgently expanding science education in colleges and universities – much as we did in the 1950s after the Soviet launch of Sputnik gave our nation a needed wake-up call. ...

At a minimum the US should vastly increase the number of permanent visas for highly educated foreigners, streamline the process for those already working here and allow foreign students in the hard sciences and engineering to move directly to permanent resident status. Any country that wants to remain competitive has to start competing for the best minds in the world. Without that we may be unable to maintain economic leadership in the 21st century.

If they had a 95 mph fastball or the talent to play in the NBA, we'd find a way to let them in.

    Posted by on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 12:18 AM in Economics, Policy, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (16)


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