Monday, June 25, 2007

The immigration debate

I am appalled. Apalled at this farce called the immigration debate.

I had always believed that the US is (read was) a country that valued talent more than anything else. This belief is being shattered as I watch the house and the senate focus on immigration issues that deal with illegals than legals. Let me explain.

I am from India - a country that sends one of the largest student groups to the US. India gets more attention for the large number of H1Bs that are supposedly taking away american jobs and less attention for the thousands of students who come to the US. Students who have and will graduate from US universities every year and contribute to the US economy. The famed silicon valley is full of beaming entrepreneurs with ideas who have come here to pursue their education and fulfill their aspirations. There is no belittling the contribution made by Indian or Chinese immigrants to the US.

The problem with the current debate on immigration is that it does not effectively deal with issues that concern "legal" immigrants. A discussion with any Indian or Chinese immigrant (most probably a Master's or a PhD grad from a US university) will reveal that there is a long waiting line to get a green card - in cases that runs into years. The administration in all its wisdom is more concerned about tobacco pickers than PhDs, I suppose. I see US hurtling down a dangerous path - a path that is filled with hubris. The world is becoming more competitive due to globalization and the dominance of US as a destination for talent can no longer be taken for granted. As long as the US can attract and retain talent, the US economy stays vibrant. The moment it ignores talent and value, it is bound to suffer the consequences.

Who will add more value to the US: a person whose only skill set is laying down bricks or the person whose skill set is designing jet engines? The answer is obvious.

However, reality does not reflect this. The voice(read an english voice) of legal immigrants is lost in the cries (read in hispanic) of illegals this country.

Even with a PhD in business, I am not so sure of my future in this country. It might be five or six years before I get a permanent residency in this country. It might take even longer. Is all I can do just wait and watch as illegals jump the fence and get amnesty?

I have always believed US being a free country that is indifferent to religion, social class, race or gender and that it will be a vibrant place that will always attract immigrants like me. I am troubled that US is slowly losing the mantle it has occupied for so long. I want a change. I am not sure how I can contribute, but I want to. This is the only place where I can be who I am and be really happy about it. I want the US to realize its mistake on the immigration issue. I want my voice to be heard. I want legal immigrants to be treated differently and with priority.

Watch out for my next post on the bane called "the Indian IT firm"

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