The immigration brain drain

Discussion in 'Immigration/Illegal Immigration' started by Angelhair, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Angelhair
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    Angelhair Senior Member

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    FORTUNE -- If you're an immigration lawyer, this is a busy time of year. Each April the U.S. begins to accept new applications for H-1B work visas -- the sort reserved for the highly skilled foreigners coveted by U.S. firms. This year 65,000 H-1B visas are available.

    Things are off to a plodding start thus far: As of May 6, only 18,000 applications had been filed for regular H-1Bs, a slower pace than in the past, and evidence -- were any more needed -- that the economic recovery has not so far led to a wave of hiring.

    But with immigration reform a hot topic in Washington, you can bet that the old arguments about H-1Bs will soon be trotted out: Labor groups will claim that they depress wages and take jobs from Americans, a point with obvious relevance given today's unemployment rates. Businesses, especially the high-tech sector, will assert that each H-1B visa holder creates another four jobs and that securing the best talent from around the world is vital to our competitiveness.

    I had better declare an interest. I was born in England, and I was lucky enough to receive an H-1B myself, the first step on a journey that ended with U.S. citizenship. That notwithstanding, I admit to a sneaking sympathy with the scheme's critics, if only because anytime I hear a policy justified by the use of the word "competitiveness," I reach for my BS detector. If a nation cannot be competitive when it accounts for nearly a quarter of world output, sits on abundant natural resources, has most of the world's best universities, and has had a stable constitutional system for some 200 years, a supposed shortage of computer scientists is the least of our worries.

    The immigration brain drain - Jun. 14, 2010
     
  2. Angelhair
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    Angelhair Senior Member

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    I would argue for a fuller debate about high-skilled workers, one that doesn't ignore a key constituency: immigrants' countries of origin. It's fine to say that the U.S. (and other rich nations) need the world's best, but what happens to the places they leave?

    A recent World Bank report on nursing in the English-speaking Caribbean tells the story. Local demand for nurses, the bank found, exceeds supply by about 30%; emigration is a key explanation for the gap. The bank estimated that roughly three times as many Caribbean-trained nurses are working overseas (especially in the U.S., Canada, and Britain) as at home. And the report found that the brightest nurses were the ones leaving to work abroad.

    Migration from the developing world is often a function of smart people fleeing badly managed, corrupt economies that haven't invested in health and education. But the poor countries that are trying to do the right things and there are many -- need the best and brightest working in their agricultural colleges and finance ministries if they are to ever get richer. Bluntly, they need that brainpower more than we do.

    The immigration brain drain - Jun. 14, 2010
     
  3. Big Fitz
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    Big Fitz User Quit *****

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    But look! We're more than replacing them with workers and families from Mexico! That should count at least for volume.... shouldn't it? [/sarcasm]
     

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