Gimmie Immigrants

Not only are we a nation composed almost entirely of immigrants and their progeny, immigrants have almost always been good news for the country—once the earlier immigrants had managed to destroy the aborigines and steal their land, of course.

Now is no different. We should be encouraging all kinds of people to come in, because they are good for us. Instead, our immigration policy is a shambles, and we are losing most of the benefits that immigrants bring with them. President Obama’s new immigration proposals look promising, but we shall see. [Check out Immigration and Innovation.]

Immigrants have almost always been
good news for the country.

This is not to say that there would be no speed bumps if we were to go down the road of less restrictive immigration, but problems would be local and limited. Immigrants might be competition for limited jobs in a few places, but not necessarily because they would work for cheap. A desirable wage would be the going wage. A worker might work for a bit less rather than have no job at all, but that’s not a long term solution for anyone, and native-born workers have the same option.

The xenophobic, particularly in certain southern states, do their best to make life difficult for workers with darker skin, claiming they “take jobs from Americans”. This is rarely true, and in the cases where the state managed to drive large numbers of their agricultural workers out, farmers had to plow crops under because there were no “Americans” who could even do the jobs, let alone were willing to work for low pay.

When we as a nation give money to help a poor nation, the chances are high that virtually all of it will end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. What government would send money to Zimbabwe? The people or project for which it is intended would see none of it.

Our immigration policies cause us to lose
many of the potentially most valuable people.

Contrast that with what happens when we welcome foreign born people from poor nations. They send money home to their families, sometimes more money than they could make in the old country. This money does not get sidetracked. It actually ends up where it was intended, because the recipients make sure it does. And often they plan to eventually return to their birthplace, even if it’s just to die. Sending money home is good for the workers, for their home country, and for the US.

The situation is rather different with highly skilled workers.

There is a new world of highly skilled immigrants. These are not people beating down the doors to get in, because they can go almost anywhere, and often do. Moreover, they don’t necessarily immigrate permanently. In fact, our immigration policies often cause us to lose them, even after they go to graduate school here.

The US is still the most popular country for graduate studies, and a significant part of our graduate student population is foreign. But we then fail to keep them here to make use of what we have taught them by insisting that they must leave. Other countries, including their own, make no such mistake, and they are snapped up, paid well, and afforded high status. Indian and Chinese students, in particular, are valued where they came from.

A very large part of the entrepreneurs who make our industries competitive are foreign born. But we are losing out on others because we do not seek out those who have trained here and demonstrated their value. Let’s hope that changes soon.

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