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Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood

Posted March 31, 2009 | 06:34 PM (EST)

Keep The Brains Out. What a Dumb Idea!


The human capital that America attracts is much more valuable than all the oil in Saudi Arabia.

But the idiots in Congress continue to squander our greatest natural resource -- our ability to attract the best and brightest from all over the world.

On April 1st, employers will begin filing applications for 65,000 H-1B visas for talented, high skilled, foreigners -- many of whom are graduating from U.S. universities with degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Most hopeful foreigners can forget about getting one. These coveted visas will be snapped up within days, and hundreds of thousands of highly qualified individuals from other countries will be forced to take their skills, their drive, and their entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere.

60 years ago my mother came here on a boat from South America. She had won a Rockefeller Fellowship to Johns Hopkins Medical School and came to teach and do research at Cornell Medical School in New York City. If she had applied for the H-1B visa, under the current rules, she never would have gotten in.

As America falls deeper and deeper into depression, and the decline of the American Empire seems increasingly imminent, it is important to realize how we came to be the last best hope for world peace and democracy.

Our country was built on the backs of talented, ambitious immigrants. In a global economy, talent, ambition, and education are scarce. There is never enough to go around.

If we want our companies to remain cutting-edge and our business ventures to attract worldwide talent, we must break free of political rhetoric and refocus on the fundamentals.

If we don't let these people in, other countries will be glad to take them. Cities like Hong Kong, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Frankfurt, Mumbai, are chomping at the bit to lure these educated job creators.

For example, educated and brainy people from all over the world can easily get a Canadian Skilled Worker Visa, which allows them to become perfectly legal "permanent residents" in Canada -- no need for a sponsoring employer, or even a job.

Canada has no limit on the number of skilled immigrants who can move to the country.

"Visas are awarded based on education level, work experience, age and language abilities. If a prospective immigrant earns 67 points out of 100 total (holding a Ph.D. is worth 25 points, for instance), he or she can become a full-time, legal resident of Canada," according to a Fareed Zakaria's piece in Newsweek. Zakaria called US Immigration policy "brain-dead" .

Bill Gates is livid about the situation. In 2007 Microsoft -- frustrated by its inability to get H -1B visas for foreign high-tech Indian and Chinese programmers -- decided to park its overseas brains in Canada, a short two-hour drive from its Redmond, Wash. headquarters.

The software giant said it would stock its new Vancouver development center with "highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S." The US is losing thousands of jobs and Canada is gaining them.

It is dangerous and self-defeating for the United States to turn away individuals, with the skills that we need, who want to live and work in America -- under the illusion that by doing so we are protecting our economy. Ironically, the main opposition to granting more visas comes from the far right and the far left.

Our current restricted visa policy denies us a vital resource that we need to help pull ourselves out of the recession, create jobs and put our economy on a sound footing for the future.

Damming up the river of talented foreigners will cost American jobs, not save them.

Yesterday, NAFSA: The Association of International Educators called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Such reform should include the removal or adjustment of unrealistic caps on temporary and permanent employment-based visa categories.

If Congress chooses not to address immigration reform comprehensively, these measures must be enacted separately, the educators said.

The advantages of attracting these individuals to our country are well known: they are a key part of the pipeline of skilled talent from outside our borders that fuels our economy; they help our universities prepare the next generation of American college graduates for the jobs of tomorrow; Yet we cannot be successful in the competition for these students and scholars if they know that the only way they will be able to accept jobs after graduation--with employers who need them and want to hire them--is to win the H-1B lottery.


"People the world over -- people with big dreams and the entrepreneurial spirit ... -- want to come to the United States because they ... can realize their dreams here. So it has been since the first Pilgrims sailed--and so it must continue to be. Skilled immigrants fuel innovation in America.

Even if millions of skilled and talented immigrants want to come here, let them. Sadly, it may be, that all too soon, they'll want to go somewhere else...


Write to: jfleetwood@aol.com