Immigration Issue Takes Centerstage

Immigration is a hot issue today on the US political battlefield particularly because its an election year. Proposals and counter proposals are flooding the capital. In the rush to solve this seemingly perennial crisis most politicians on both sides of the aisle are doing little to try and separate illegal and legal immigration. All the discussions range from extreme protectionist measures to political maneuvering to gain the upper hand on the issue.

One the one hand, all and sundry especially in Washington love to talk about how America is falling behind in Math and Science education. Besides, there is constant talk of how even high end jobs are moving overseas. Yet, in our backyard here in Silicon Valley there are scores highly qualified advanced degree holders diligently working for high tech companies, paying taxes and doing every bit to help the US economy. Yet, such folks are forced to wait for years to get their green card. This scenario has not changed for decades. Ironically, despite being a country of immigrants, the US still seems to have a hard time differentiating the qualified legal immigrants from the rest!

Why should all green card holders not have a right to vote and participate in the political process? In the obsession to tackle illegal immigration, legal immigrants who should be welcomed with open arms are being put through inordinate senseless delays as Government Departments struggle to cope with meaningless paper work.

I think both political parties would do America a world of good if they placed all legal immigration on a fast track. Give green card holders citizenship without having to go through another two year application process. Make it attractive and quick for H1Bs to convert to green cards holders. Likewise offer incentives for foreign students with advanced degrees to stay in the country. Maybe Ph.Ds get citizenship after 2-3 years of work in the US, maybe they get incentives to continue their research, commericalize their research etc., MS grads get special incentives for pursuing doctoral degrees.

The intent is certainly not to trivilize the immigration challenge. It is certainly a critical issue with very wide ranging implications and has to be dealt with carefully (esp in a election year!). But as a start illegal and legal immigration must be separately dealt with espicially at a time when America’s future is supposedly at stake with loss of jobs overseas, decline in education standards, the economic downturn, the endless war on terror, and the works. The immediate fix might not bee too complicated and might lie in fixing legal immigration. The Silicon Valley magic might just return! At a min this will turn the tables against America’s so-called competition from India and China. We’ll have the best and brightest moving here rather than the reverse brain drain that is happening today to some extent.

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