Friday, April 23, 2010
Immigration: THE most important issue
As Congress struggles to pass a financial reform bill, I think we should start looking past finance to a far, far more important issue: immigration reform.
Much has been made of America's short-term decline relative to other countries. But in the long run, America's future looks much brighter than China's or anyone else's, for one simple reason: immigration. Our ability to draw in and assimilate the world's population is a strength no other country on this planet (except Canada and Australia) possesses. In addition to keeping our population eternally young (while other countries struggle with aging societies and overburdened pensions), we get to skim off the cream of the crop - the most entrepreneurial, the smartest, the hardest-working. Immigration is America's ultimate trump card.
There are two big problems with our immigration system. the first is that, for reasons entirely unknown, we have made it much harded for super-talented people to work here. Increasing numbers of international grad students are going home. That means that we pay foreign people to get a world-class education, and they walk away and go apply their skills in other countries.
Why in Yahweh's name are we doing this public service for China and India when we could put those people to work inventing technologies and starting companies that give the rest of us Americans jobs? Massively increasing the number of H1-B visas is only the start; we must expand our green card quota and bias the system toward people who have studied here. In fact, we should give every single foreign grad student a green card upon completion of their studies.
The second immigration problem is, of course, illegals. Not that they are here, but that they are illegal. This means that they don't assimilate fast, and faster assimilation is better. If illegals have to be afraid of getting deported, they won't put their kids in public schools, they won't get jobs at companies where English is the first language, and they won't meet (and marry) a lot of people who speak English as their first language. In other words, they will stay foreigners forever, and only their native-born children will become true Americans.
We cannot afford this permanent-foreigner underclass. Not if we don't want to become France. So when reactionary anti-immigrant jerks make laws like the one just passed in Arizona, it hurts all of America. The only thing that can stop states from cracking down on illegals is a federal amnesty, like the one Reagan passed in 1986.
The constituency for immigration reform - basically, everyone except the hysterical nativists - is diffuse and disunited. This presents a formidable barrier to taking any kind of collective political action. But, however slowly, the word must spread - immigration reform is THE policy we need to pull our nation out of the (temporary) decline in which we currently find ourselves.