Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Other Immigration Wave

Updated with a caveat (below)

The debate over immigration focuses primarily on the unskilled dregs Mexico foists on us so that country's leaders don't have to face up to the fact that they have utterly failed at the relatively simple task of making a hard-working, democratic country successful.

It's a good focus. A study released in February by the Public Policy Institute of California lets us know that fully 30% of the workers in California who have no high school diploma are immigrants. (They're 18% of the US workforce.)

Clearly, the low jobs on the totem pole are going away from Gringos big-time.

But the PPIC report has a stat at the other end of the education scale that's a real eye-opener: 43% of those holding doctorate degrees in the California workforce are immigrants. (They're 28% of the national workforce.)

Look at that again: Nearly half of the PhDs, MDs and other doctorate-holders in the nation's most populous state came here from another country. Presumably, there are not as many illegals in this bunch (the PPIC report doesn't differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants.)

I get flummoxed by stats like this.

On the one hand I worry about the caliber of U.S. kids and U.S. education. Are we incapable of turning out enough engineers, physicists, researchers and mathematicians to take care of ourselves? Are our kids too busy with YouTube and XBox and Ecstasy to amount to much?

On the other hand, I'm thrilled that the brightest people on the planet still see America as the place to be. You can bet your Phi Beta Kappa pin that 28% of China's doctorate degree holders aren't foreign-born, nor are India's, nor, probably, are France's.

While many of those YouTube, XBox, Ecstasy offspring feel closer to Cindy Sheehan than Condi Rice, bright people from Buenos Aires to Bombay see that there's really just one country on the planet that stands out as the best place on earth, and it's us.

For them, our immigration policy must always look like a welcome mat. We can't let liberal kumbayah politics try to equate these people with the dirt-poor, poorly educated people who come up from Guadalajara to mow our lawns.

If America is going to stay competitive in a global economy, and if, in fact, we're not turning out enough scientists and thinkers, then let the brain drain continue to run in our direction. Every PhD we recruit from some other country makes us more competitive on the global stage and them less competitive.

Caveat: High grey-matter individuals from China, Iran and other enemies of the state are obviously very different from most PhD immigrants. With them tight controls over whether they can come here, what they do when they're here and how long they stay are absolutely essential.

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