Onions: Immigrants should be valued as job makers
- May. 1, 2012
- 3 Comments
As Americans, we pride ourselves on quite a bit. We’re the greatest, the strongest, the most free, a superpower, a world leader, what have you. And when it comes to technology, at least, the United States has a proud tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship. Look no further than big names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerburg, whose products enrich our lives and set high standards for our competition.
But if you look a little closer than All-Americans like Steve, Bill, and Mark, you’ll notice something. Do Pierre Omidyar, Sergey Brin, and Jerry Yang sound familiar? Maybe not. How about eBay, Google, or Yahoo, the companies each of these immigrants helped found?
Those who are fervently “anti-immigrant” are likely blissfully ignorant of the contributions foreign-born researchers, developers, and scientists have made in the United States. After all, it is hard to argue with facts, especially those that reveal that immigrant-founded companies based in the U.S. employ over 400,000 Americans and generate billions in revenue each year. And I don’t hear “anti-immigrant” protestors complaining about the pharmaceuticals, computer systems, and hundreds of other products created through the work of immigrants who are listed as contributors on over 25% of U.S. global patent applications.
People should worry about immigration, but the concern shouldn’t be over who we let into this country; it should be over who we are keeping out.
It may surprise you that in the U.S., over half of the doctorates awarded in mathematics, computer sciences, physics, and economics are earned by students from another country. That number increases to over 60% in engineering. The United States doesn’t have a problem with attracting students to American universities. But after we educate them, our abysmal visa system sends the vast majority of them home to their countries of origin where they create products and services that compete with those in America. Where is the sense in that?
When 64% of Indian students and 68% of Chinese students educated in the U.S. hope to start a business within the next decade, we should be capitalizing on the chance to jumpstart the economy and put Americans to work. We should be finding ways to increase visas for entrepreneurs and innovators, removing barriers to access, and creating environments that welcome the best talent in the world, regardless of origin.
And we better do it soon. While Congress drags its feet through another election year and the public continues to think of immigration as a four-letter word, our competition in the international race for talent is rolling out the welcome mat for the highly-skilled immigrants we are chasing away. While the UK, Canada, Russia, Chile, Brazil, and Singapore reform their systems in order to attract the next Zuckerburg or Omidyar, the U.S. should remember that pride is a dangerous thing. With an immigrant tradition as strong as America’s, we would do well to return to our roots in order to defend our status as the land of opportunity.
Onions is a junior in political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies from Shawnee.