The Immigration Solution: Import Nobel-Caliber Minds

America has a long history of attracting the best and brightest thinkers, researchers, and innovators to our shores – but our immigration policies are making it harder to continue this trend, warns a recent article in The American Spectator, by Ryan Young and Alex Nowrasteh. (See The Nobel Case for Immigration,” The American Spectator, 26.Oct.2010.)

As Young and Nowrasteh point out, “The H1B visa for skilled workers is capped at 85,000,” a quota that’s normally – in non-recession years – filled in a single day. This makes it harder to recruit creative and highly-skilled immigrants from other countries. If anything, Young and Nowrasteh argue, the U.S. should be going out of its way to get talented immigrants to come here, because “the quota on highly-skilled immigrants is economically costly.” According to the authors,

“A 2005 World Bank study found that foreign graduate students working in the United States file an enormous number of patents. A quarter of international patents filed from the U.S. in 2006 named a non-U.S. citizen working in the U.S. as the inventor or co-inventor. Immigrants – some of whom our immigration bureaucracy refuses to recognize – are responsible for an outsized portion of today’s rapid technological advancement.”

Young and Nowrasteh also note that Americans win a disproportionate share of the Nobel prizes, compared to its share of world population; while 1 in 20 people on earth is American, “Americans won 4 of 11 Nobel prizes this year,” and “[l]ast year, it was 8 of 9,” and a substantial number of American laureates are immigrants, they point out:

“Today, about 1 in 8 Americans are foreign-born, but 1 in 4 American Nobel laureates since 1901 are foreign-born. Immigrants, it seems, are chronic overachievers. America would benefit by letting more in. A third of Silicon Valley’s scientists and engineers are immigrants. Forty percent of Ph.D. scientists working in the U.S. are foreign-born. They are sources of innovation, progress, and – not to be ignored – jobs. If our immigration system allowed more high-skilled workers into the country, the result would be faster growth and higher employment.”

The question is whether the new Congress will be so wrapped up in immigration enforcement that it misses the opportunity to rebalance the scales, and provide more incentives for bright and highly-motivated immigrants to bring their creative talents to the United States. Time will tell.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.