Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Immigration: what genius glut?

The New York Times has me shaking my head questioning fact-checkers on opinion pieces at the venerable newspaper. Without direct attribution and proof, the author of the article called America's Genius Glut spouts immigration statistics and refutes them as useless in the same paragraph here:

..."for the sake of our global competitiveness, we shouldn’t train and then return the tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian students who come here every year. But almost 90 percent of the Chinese students who earn science and technology doctorates in America stay here; the number is only slightly lower for Indians."

But if tens of thousands of students leave the United States every year, then how can ninety-percent of them also be staying? Given the small number of visas issued each year that remark doesn't hold water or make any sense whatsoever. Where are the statistics for this? Did he consult either the Census (and if so, where are the figures?) or did he read the writings of immigration lawyers such as "There is no Line"?

It's well-known that many high-tech titans have argued that the admission numbers of skilled immigrants has become too small and tight in America.

Here's what David Desjardins, a founding Google employee, said Feb 8, 2013 on Google+ for example:

...we need a new economic ideology in this country.  The right is so dedicated to anti-government mania that they can't believe we need any common efforts to solve common problems.  But the left can be so obsessed with the equality of every person that they can't imagine there's any more economic value and growth to be created by giving a green card to a science PhD than to a Latino immigrant with a 6th grade education who works really hard.  And so obsessed with an "insufficient aggregate demand" view of our economic troubles that the idea that there might not actually be a fixed, invariable number of jobs for scientists and engineers, but the amount of science and engineering we do depends on how many scientists and engineers we have, doesn't occur to them."

Certainly, the educated should be allowed into America, and achievement should be placed above unproven potential. But at the same time, educating people for the purpose of moving them out of the country has always seemed a double-edged sword.


Immigration should be based on solid policy

 The philosophy behind immigration for a long time has been predicated on the idea that students from around the world flock to first world universities to learn, and then they return to their own countries of birth to live forever and apply their knowledge. This has been going on for decades, since 1924.

The point is, immigration is far from being completely organized, or a democratic department of the government. It's as jumbled and mired in mystery as getting into a private school, for those of my readers familiar with that process. Yet many make sweeping generalizations about immigration as if it were democratic and as if they were experts without being qualified, experienced, and without having any more anecdotal evidence and opinion than I do.

 And how does it make sense to force the educated to leave if they want to stay while allowing in the uneducated?

Certainly those children who have foreign-born parents who've come through the educational system are "American children." Those children will not necessarily wish to, or be able to, for that matter, fit into foreign educational systems.  To turn away children educated here because their parents went against the law and stayed here goes beyond all reason. It doesn't make sense to make a huge investment in the public education of children who will be forced to leave the country if their parents aren't here legally.

It's unethical to have the parents in the country without documents, and foolish to spend money teaching their children. A crucial question is, why were the parents living here without their papers for long enough to raise children? Many have overstayed their visas, are living in the country and paying taxes, but will not maybe ever be able to have citizenship. It's these parents who are here without documents and not innocent children at fault, or rather it's the government at fault for not acknowledging the parents. It's not democratic to be forced to pay taxes and not be allowed the rewards of citizenship, such as voting and...serving on a jury. Everyone who hands over taxes to the government should be awarded citizenship.

So it's important to make it a requirement that all children educated in this country on the taxpayer's backs have parents with documents, with the exception of boarding students on temporary visas. Americans don't want criminals from other countries here, and yet criminals might slip in if government paperwork (now on computers) isn't processed quickly enough. 

And it's important to have an educated citizenry. The countries that educate the world's workforce shouldn't be rewarded with a poorly-educated populace.

But it's also important to have citizenry with legal documents. It's not undemocratic to make it a legal requirement that everyone who enters or stays in the country has to do so with documents, provided (iff) the government in its part does its share, and quickly processes applications. 

Maybe immigration lawyers should have their say in upcoming immigration policy reforms in America. Presidents and lawmakers need to be clear on the facts, and not threaten self-deportation or back-of-the-line policies not firmly grounded in reality. And we need the government to process faster the geniuses who want to be here but are good and don't want to overstay a visa. Just as archivists need to know the extent of a collection to make an archive so, to make changes, the federal government needs to understand the issues and solutions related to immigration problems.


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