April 30, 2010

NO ONE LOOKS TO THE UR FOR COURAGE:

The hub nation: Immigration places America at the centre of a web of global networks. So why not make it easier? (Lexington, Apr 22nd 2010, The Economist)

In Silicon Valley more than half of Chinese and Indian immigrant scientists and engineers report sharing information about technology or business opportunities with people in their home countries, according to AnnaLee Saxenian of the University of California, Berkeley. Some Americans fret that China and India are using American know-how to out-compete America. But knowledge flows both ways. As people in emerging markets innovate—which they are already doing at a prodigious clip—America will find it ever more useful to have so many citizens who can tap into the latest brainwaves from Mumbai and Shanghai. Immigrants can also help their American employers do business in their homelands. Firms that employ many ethnic Chinese scientists, for example, are more likely to invest in China and more likely to do so through a wholly owned subsidiary, rather than seeking the crutch of a joint venture, finds Mr Kerr. In other words, local knowledge reduces the cost of doing business.

Immigration provides America with legions of unofficial ambassadors, deal-brokers, recruiters and boosters. Immigrants not only bring the best ideas from around the world to American shores; they are also a conduit for spreading American ideas and ideals back to their homelands, thus increasing their adoptive country’s soft power.

All of which makes the task of fixing America’s cumbersome immigration rules rather urgent. Alas, Barack Obama has done little to fulfil his campaign pledge to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2010 2:44 PM
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