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Failure to reform the nation’s immigration law is sending global talent to other shores.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
More than a decade of superheated rhetoric on immigration reform has focused the debate on border security and what to do about the illegal immigrants who crossed the nation’s southern border seeking work, and stayed.
The political stalemate in Congress is hurting the nation in a way that has little to do with either topic: its ability to remain the world leader in technological innovation.
So warns a former World Bank economist, Charles Kenny, and he makes a good case by pointing out that good, old-fashioned American ingenuity is not solely Made in America. Much of it is the product of talent that is foreign born. And the stakes are high enough they ought to prod Congress to act on immigration reform.
Kenny acknowledges that this country is still No. 1 in research and inventions. In large part, though, the U.S. maintains its perch by attracting global talent, particularly from the developing world — and holding on to it.
But this country’s restrictive immigration policies don’t make it easy. And in a July 22 post on Bloomberg Businessweek, Kenny argues that recent trends showing a drop in immigrant startups in the Silicon Valley should be an incentive in Washington to find a compromise on overhauling a law all concede is not working well.
The economist cites a report by Duke University’s Vivek Wadhwa that “the proportion of high-tech startups founded by Chinese and Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley dropped from 52 percent in 2005 to 44 percent in 2011, in part because more and more Indian and Chinese graduates of U.S. universities are returning home rather than dealing with the hassle of American immigration procedures.”
During a conversation last week with the editorial board, Virginia Tech’s vice president for outreach and international affairs, Guru Ghosh, lamented how many highly educated, productive and innovative people who come here on student visas leave for home or other countries because of restrictive immigration policies.
Yet the number of immigrants who have started companies in this country make them net creators of jobs. “One of four innovators in Silicon Valley comes from out of the country,” he said.
Ending that talent drain must be one of the top priorities in the immigration debate.
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