Immigration and Higher Education In the United States

Alex Tabarrok for The Atlantic:

A rational immigration policy would open the United States to many more high-skill immigrants. High-skill immigrants innovate, patent, and start new firms at higher rates than natives. At least one-quarter of the new firms in technology and science fields, from software and semiconductors to biotech, are founded by immigrants. In Silicon Valley, more than half of the high-tech start-ups were founded by immigrants. High skill immigrants especially with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (aka: STEM) create more jobs and higher wages for Americans. Increasing high-skill immigration is such a win-win policy for increasing innovation that it's tempting to call it a no-brainer. Instead, "no-brainer" turns out to be a better description of our current policy.

As a British expatriate in the U.S., I have unfortunately been privy to this woeful system first hand. Although I am lucky enough to have dual citizenship, I have run into countless issues in transferring my residency, and studying abroad. Despite being built upon the principles of multiculturalism, the U.S. makes it remarkably difficult for even those eligible for residence to attain it.

Many students are wooed into the U.S. higher education system with promises of a balanced, broad, and strong degree. And yet, once these students complete their studies, they fall victim to this arcane visa system. Many of my friends who have studied in the U.S. have achieved astoundingly good grades, only to be hamstrung by this ridiculous policy, preventing them from remaining in the country after they graduate. Some have been forced to undertake second majors so as to delay the inevitable visa application, and even just to differentiate themselves from a growing crowd of highly skilled, yet residence ineligible people.

Having poured enormous sums of money into these institutions, most are suddenly and unabashedly forced out of the country, regardless of their respective educational achievements.

The system is farcical, and in dire need of an overhaul.

I do not request for unmetered access for international students, but as Tabarrok suggests, I think a more straightforward route toward residency for successful students is both logical and fair.

We also should create a straightforward route to permanent residency for foreign-born students who graduate with advance degrees from American universities, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We educate some of the best and brightest students in the world in our universities and then on graduation day we tell them, "Thanks for visiting. Now go home!" It's hard to imagine a more short-sighted policy to reduce America's capacity for innovation.

The fundamental fact is that in the current economic climate, it is ludicrous to send away talented individuals indebted to the U.S. -- individuals that want to contribute and aid in the reconstruction of the U.S.. economy.

This is a simple matter of common sense. Nothing more, nothing less.