Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Misguided Immigration Attorneys And Reverse Brain Drain

I am strongly pro-immigrant. I want immigrants, especially from poorer countries, to have the same opportunities as those of us from richer nations.

But I'm torn on the issue of professional visas.

My discomfort arises from the dog-eat-dog attitude displayed by some immigration lawyers.

They decry the loss of skilled immigrants because these workers will return to their home countries and perhaps work for U.S. competitors. They've even invented a term for this situation. They call it reverse brain drain.

Their position, at best, is disingenuous. When professionals from poor countries go home, their wages will not increase.

What Is Brain Drain?

Brain Drain refers to a large scale exodus of talented persons moving from one region to a different region to pursue higher paying careers and better living conditions. The exodus occurs from poorer areas to richer areas.

Brain Drain Writ Small: A Personal Example

I was raised in Barrio Logan, a poor Hispanic area in San Diego, California. I left as a teenager. Upward mobility needed no justification. Moving out was a no-brainer. A nicer neighborhood. A bigger house. A better car.

My body may have left my old neighborhood. But not my soul.

A large part of my motivation to succeed was a desire to improve the conditions for those left behind. The memories of learning to ride a bike, playing marbles, and chomping on watermelon with buddies on a hot summer day are special memories. To this day, my old neighborhood has a special place in my heart.

When I moved out, I left with optimism - optimism that somehow, someday, I would return as a San Diego immigration attorney with skills to make things better for my family and the families of my friends.

It's not quite that easy with immigrants from poor neighborhoods in another country.

Brain Drain Writ Large: The Agony Of Skilled Immigrants

I've been fortunate. I live close to areas resembling my old neighborhood. I can still fulfill my dream to help those stuck in poor areas like where I once lived.

Not so with foreign scholars and professionals. They cannot live in both worlds at once. They cannot continue to live in the U.S. after college graduation and at the same time help their local communities. The distance is not just a few miles.

Their choices are harder than mine.

Of course, some immigrants do not want to return home. As an international relations student and immigration lawyer, I learned many would cherish the opportunity to go home and make it a better place for others.

Competition Is Not The Answer

I don't agree with immigration attorneys who base their support for professional visas on fears of making U.S. competitors stronger.

This position shows me a lack of concern for helping less fortunate countries. This position glorifies our economic superiority as the only thing that matters.

Certainly, we need more skilled workers to meet our demands in various professions. Poor countries have the same needs.

The answer to the shortage is not to try to keep the best and brightest just for ourselves. Instead, we need to develop international education and training programs which strengthen the emerging global economy. We need to share workers. We need to share skills. We need to share technology and resources. By sharing, perhaps we could end the global economic mess sooner.

If we are ever to have global peace and harmony, cooperation, not competition, is the key.

In my view, immigration attorneys should help others, across oceans and continents, because we are all brothers and sisters. Nothing more. Nothing less.

1 comment:

isedot said...

The rise of China from subsistent agrarian nation to such an amazing manufacturing behemoth makes me believe that there is no way these misguided immigration attorneys can go far in achieving whatever evil goals they've set for themselves, not America. Other erstwhile poor nations like Singapore, India and even Rwanda, the fastest growing economy in Africa, are also good examples. With or without these kind of attorneys, there will be transfer of knowledge from America to the rest of the world - as long as technology keeps improving worldwide.