When Immigration Matters

Leveraging Immigration & Start-Ups to Solve Unemployment Problems

Posted by Michael Pollak on Sun, Apr 04, 2010 @ 11:06 AM

Pulitzer Prize winning writer Tom Friedman of the New York Times offers long term strategic solutions to our unemployment woes by leveraging our immigration system to attract the world's brightest, most innovative and motivated risk-takers.  Responsible immigration policies plus free markets have yielded high levels of prosperity.    

He argues that our government should be focused on fostering start-ups to create wealth and high paying jobs instead of bailouts for large companies that generated virtually no new jobs over the past three decades.  Sounds like a vote for the recently proposed Start Up Visa Act of 2010.

Here is an exerpt from his article Start-Ups, Not Bailouts that appeared in today's New York Times...

But you cannot say this often enough: Good-paying jobs don't come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers. How do we get more of those? There are only two ways: grow more by improving our schools or import more by recruiting talented immigrants. Surely, we need to do both, and we need to start by breaking the deadlock in Congress over immigration, so we can develop a much more strategic approach to attracting more of the world's creative risk-takers. "Roughly 25 percent of successful high-tech start-ups over the last decade were founded or co-founded by immigrants," said Litan. Think Sergey Brin, the Russian-born co-founder of Google, or Vinod Khosla, the India-born co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

That is no surprise. After all, Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer of Microsoft, asks: What made America this incredible engine of prosperity? It was immigration, plus free markets. Because we were so open to immigration - and immigrants are by definition high-aspiring risk-takers, ready to leave their native lands in search of greater opportunities - "we as a country accumulated a disproportionate share of the world's high-I.Q. risk-takers."

And he doesn't stop there.  He makes some interesting points about the unintended "brain drain" from our university system.  We are attracting the best foreign students and educating them in fields such as science, technology, and medicine (areas that have shortages of Americans) and requiring them to return to their native countries because their visas expire.  The negative effects are compounded by the fact that many of these people are the high-I.Q. risk takers that raise capital, commercialize their ideas and create growing innovative new companies that create lots of high paying jobs for Americans.

Right now we have thousands of foreign students in America and one million engineers, scientists and other highly skilled workers here on H-1B temporary visas, which require them to return home when the visas expire. That's nuts. "We ought to have a ‘job-creators visa' for people already here," said Litan. "And once you've hired, say, 5 or 10 American nonfamily members, you should get a green card."

Pragmatic ideas from a brilliant mind.  Is Washington listening?

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