What Happens When Immigrants No Longer Want To Come To America?

Brad Feld posted this on his blog the other day: Attracting Smart People to Your Community Accelerates Entrepreneurship.   The entire time I was reading it I couldn’t help but think in global terms; Attracting Smart People to Your COUNTRY Accelerates Entrepreneurship and Grows the Economy.

I think America is at a tipping point.  We continue to embrace the things that made us great or we morph into something else.  I’m not going to share my opinion on the something else, I’ll let that be debated.   But, I am going to share my opinions on what made us great.   Simply, it’s the perception of opportunity.

The perception of opportunity attracts smart people.   It’s the single most impacting element to the rise of America as the most prosperous country in the world.  The success of America has come almost solely from the perception that it offers more opportunity than any other place in the world.  This perception has drawn millions and millions of people, immigrants, to its shores.  These immigrants have been the backbone to American prosperity.

I think this core element to Americas success is being threatened and it scares me.

With our economy shaky, Americans angry,  China, India and other countries taking center stage in the world economy, Americas place in the world is being threatened and our anti-immigration sentiment  could be the straw that breaks Americas back.

America was built on luring the best and the brightest here.  America has been the beneficiary of her own dream, but that could be beginning to change.

A few interesting statistics:

  1. Only 6% of Indian students want to stay in the country full time after graduation
  2. Only 10% of Chineses students want to stay in the country permanently after graduation
  3. Only 15% of European students want to stay permanently after graduation
  4. Over 25% of all US start-ups were started by immigrants
  5. Over 25% of US patents were filed by immigrants
  6. 60% of Engineering Doctorates were received by foreign students
  7. 50% of all Math, Computer Science , Physics and Economics Doctorates were awarded to foreign students
  8. Immigration founded US based business employed 450,000 workers and generated 52 billion dollars in revenue
  9. Google, Intel, Yahoo, and Ebay were all started by Immigrants

What happens when no foreign students want to stay in the country?

Take away 25% of all US start-ups, where does that leave us?

Take away 25% of all US Patents where does that leave us?

Let 60% of all Engineering Doctorates leave the country, what happens to our future?

Let 50% of all Math, Computer Science, Physics, and Economics Doctorates leave the country, what happens to our future?

The impact immigrants have had in this country is undeniable.  I liken it to the Yankees, get the best talent and the most talent and you win.  (this is hard to say being a Red Sox fan)  America has had this formula down pat for almost a century and we’ve benefitted from it tremendously.   Now, the fear of terrorism squeezing access to visa’s, the onerous process foreign students have to go through to stay in the country after graduation, the boiling animosity towards immigration, especially illegal immigration, the economic rise and prosperity of other countries like China and India, are all threatening the American dream of opportunity.

There is a global race on for brain power.  The winners of this race will lead the worlds economy.  America wrote the book on attracting the best and brightest.  We need to go back to the book and execute it flawlessly.  We need new policies that make it easier for immigrants to set up shop.   We need start-up visas.  We need to be more open of immigration.  We need to embrace the fact that, without immigrants, America will be a very different place, and it’s not a good place.

We can’t pick and choose what type of immigrants we want.  There is no bad immigration.  We embrace immigration or we don’t.   We need to make it easier to come here.  But more importantly, we need to ensure America is a place people want to come to.   If you think things are tough now, imagine what it would be like if no one wanted to come here anymore.

I say we create a new leading economic indicator; the desire of immigrants to come to America. We need to track it and measure it.  I think it’s a telling indicator, one that right now is heading in the wrong direction.

When immigrants no longer want to come to America, we lose.

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