Is U.S. Immigration Policy Hurting America’s Competitiveness?

Murali Bashyam

In past issues of Immigration News Weekly, our law firm has discussed how reforming our current immigration system has gotten lost in the immigration debate. The debate has focused on how to deal with illegal immigration, and as this debate as dragged on for years, professional workers who are legally here are having to wait 4-7 years to get permanent resident status. Immigrants in ‘limbo’ during this long and frustrating process are thinking about leaving the United States. Is all of this healthy for the U.S. and the U.S. economy? 
We don’t think so, and we are not in the minority. Vivek Wadhwa, a former IT entrepreneur who is currently with Duke and Harvard, is leading the debate on how our current immigration system is hurting America’s competitiveness.  The following is an email sent by Klaus Kleinfeld to Mr. Wadhwa. Mr. Kleinfeld is currently the CEO of Alcoa and was formerly the CEO of Siemens. 
From: Kleinfeld, Klaus
Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 9:35 PM
To: Vivek.wadhwa
Cc: vwadhwa
Subject: BW Article_America’s Immigrant Brian Drain
Dear Mr. Wadhwa,
Unfortunately I am a little late as it took a while to get your email, but better late than never. As a German citizen living in the U.S. and the CEO of an American icon — Alcoa – I found your article in Business Week to be insightful and thought-provoking.  Your statistics and conclusions send a warning to all of us who value the contributions of American inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit.
Those of us who grew up in other countries and cultures can see and appreciate the power of those unique American values perhaps better than Americans themselves. We are energized by the freedom of opportunity, the dynamic business culture and the excellent schools of high learning.  We are motivated to use that energy and learning to better ourselves in this land of opportunity, and in the process to contribute to America’s success. Down through U.S.history, the competition from succeeding waves of immigrants created the force that drove Americans to excel. It seems to me, that U.S. will continue to thrive as long as the best and brightest from other lands continue to contribute to America’s progress and compete for its opportunities.  
While a “brain drain” would be tragic for the U.S., it would also be harmful to the international network of commerce and innovation that has played an important role in global progress and human development. The hub of that network, the engine for that progress has been the U.S.   Immigrants and “guests” like myself bring an international understanding and insights about how the U.S. can continue to fulfill its important leadership role in today’s global society. 
Thanks for bringing this to the attention of a larger audience and with this provoking interesting ideas. I am sure they will have an impact at least over time.
All the very best,
Klaus Kleinfeld
The United States should be encouraging immigrant professionals to remain here and help the country effectively compete with the rest of the world. President Obama, we hope you are listening.