Monday, June 29, 2009

- Immigration and science

Immigration reform is a hugely controversial topic these days. You just need to read the comments to online posts to see how strong and different the feelings are. Most of this discussion centers around illegal immigration and the effects it has on the economy and crime. These are complicated issues and I am not qualified to talk about them nor have the intention of posting my view on them. However, there is a whole other side to immigration reform and it has to do with legal immigration. Legal immigration requires a visa and there are many visa categories depending on the purpose of the foreign person. Many of these visas, for example F (students) and J (exchange visitors) visas, do not allow the person to remain in the US once they finish their program. Work visas (H-1B) do allow for permanent immigration but the number of visas per year is capped and the process is expensive, lengthy and not guaranteed for everyone.

Now you might be wondering why legal immigration is important or relevant to science and the answer is nicely presented by Tom Friedman in his Invent, Invent, Invent article. All you need is to visit a science department at your closest university to find out how many foreigners do science and are willing to stay in the US and be productive both economically and scientifically. There are also plenty of scientists and engineers abroad that would like to come to the US and enjoy the technology and research culture any day. Of course, there are many American citizens in the same departments doing science, but point is that the US needs to have policies that not only keeps in, but also invites the best of the best in the world to come to this country. Friedman makes a great point when he says that these scientists will create more jobs than they take and that will benefit every one.

Getting it done requires an immigration reform too and it seems to be neglected/forgotten with the illegal part. Hopefully soon people will get over their fears and politicians over their stupidity and stubbornness and we'll have a decent proposal approved.

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