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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

STEM legislation and a certain Congressman from Texas

Imagine a law that would say this:  if someone comes here to go to college and graduates with a degree in the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics (hence the "STEM").  Rather than sending this person back to their homeland to directly compete against our own STEM workers (I'm told that somewhere we actually have produced a handful or so of STEM workers all on our very own), we would give them a green card and encourage them to stay and fuel our technological advances rather than, oh let's just say, China's.  That would be a good thing, wouldn't it?

The timing for such a bill would be welcome for the U.S. economy because at present a software engineer from India would have to wait 70 years or so because of the backlog caused by an antiquated quota system.  In seventy years, our grandkids will probably be working in a call center for the Bank of Mahindra or Shanghai Express.

It bears pointing out that immigrants have always been major contributors to our economic success.  According to a study by the Kaufman Foundation,

in a quarter of the U.S. science and technology companies founded from 1995 to 2005, the chief executive or lead technologist was foreign-born. In 2005, these companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers. In some industries, the numbers were much higher; in Silicon Valley, the percentage of immigrant-founded startups had increased to 52 percent. Indian immigrants founded 26 percent of these startups—more than the next four groups from Britain, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined.   

I recently interrupted a meeting of angry minuteman at the Arizona/Mexico border and asked the question about the value of STEM workers and after a robust discussion during which I pointed out that the digital thermal gun sights they were using were the invention of an immigrant (I was probably correct--although I was making it up) there was near unanimous assent for the idea, proving that even the most ardent immigrant bashers understand the contributions that "them foreigners" make to our country.  So when I heard that the U.S. House of Representatives was going to take up the STEM legislation, I figured that it would literally fly right through without any problems.  Or at least until I heard who was chairing the committee that would hear testimony on the bill.

Lamar Smith, congressman from San Antonio, Texas, champion of the restrictionists and patron saint of the minutemen, held the gavel for the hearing. He is the long time nemesis of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and was the chief architect of the 1996 immigration enforcement-only laws that have served to paralyze our immigration system and ironically swell the numbers of illegal immigrants living in the U.S.  Indeed, putting him in charge of these hearings is a little like putting Chuck Kuck in charge of buying the refreshments for the office Christmas party.  (Chuck, for those who don't know, is a good friend and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  He is also a inspiring and devout Mormon).  But at least Chuck would try to do the right thing.

I'm not so sure about Mr. Smith.  It was reported that he rejected assistance from Rep. Zoe Lofgren, whose congressional district encompasses much of Silicon Valley, because a) she is a Democrat, and b) she wouldn't support his eVerify bill.  It was also reported that he is a little uneasy with the general prospect of simply having more scientists come to America.  So lets all take a minute and sent an email to Mr. Smith and let him know that we want American to continue to lead the world in the STEM categories.

1 comment:

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