Every four years usually coinciding with election season, the American people have the privilege of being subject to unintelligible histrionics on the issue of immigration by both contenders for elected office and editorialists. Candidates from all political quarters tend to treat immigration as an electoral issue for their district rather than a national strategic issue for the country, and therefore many merely choose to master the art of being opaque without sounding evasive, not the least bit interested in developing a realistic policy framework so long as the fewest number of constituents have been alienated.
If we wish to break a cycle in which we are all freely able to talk about immigration reform with only meek expectations that anything would be done, we should first demand an honest dialogue that examines the issue not just from one communities parochial interests—because immigration becomes far too easy to demagogue, and intelligent debate inevitably gets replaced by populism that throws up various quack remedies ranging from mass deportations to a completely open border.
This type of ad hominem debate is not healthy for America or India, so let’s resist indulging in tired ‘feel-good’ clichés about immigrants being the most hard-working, talented, and loyal people in society. Immigrants are like any other large demographic group: there are many individuals that are wonderful, and there are some that are not so. So let’s look only at facts.
In the last twenty years, nearly 1 in 4 new public American companies were founded by immigrants, including technology conglomerates like Google, Sun, PayPal, eBay, Intel, Tesla Motors, and Yahoo. This has translated into hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs for American citizens, that also support hundreds of thousands of more jobs at the support, administrative, and unskilled levels, and billions in both foreign direct investment in U.S. infrastructure and tax revenue to the American government. An American economic success achieved by not being myopic and lowering impediments for those with provable human capital.
It is a vital American national security and strategic interest that both domestic and foreign human capital should have minimal barriers towards entrepreneurship. Current regulations which link legal status towards employment with a single firm and demand obtrusively high levels of capital backing as a prerequisite for founding a company actually encourage repatriation of skilled labor with no tangible benefit to the domestic workforce. Even in a credit constrained global economy, an EB-5 Visa requires an investment petition backed by $1 million and the initial creation of ten domestic jobs for U.S. nationals. Most high-tech startups begin with less than $50,000 initial investment.
Well paying jobs in America for college graduates will not come in abundance from stimulus packages, protectionism, or changes in the tax code. America could afford higher barriers towards starting companies when there were few other places in the world where honest and innovative people could prosper, but that paradigm has now eroded. The cornerstone of American success is that creative and intelligent people can commercialize their talents, and we should not throw away our competitive edge in attracting and enabling those who can create jobs.