Give us your tired, your poor … and your PhD scientists

How’s this for a provocative start of an article: the Tech Guys advocate attracting 100 million new immigrants to the United States in the next 20 years. Why? For three simple reasons: to expand the economy, to remain the world’s strongest country and to be consistent with American values.

America is a land of immigrants. Some would say that’s a trite phrase but it is a powerful phrase that bears repeating. The first immigrants came to what eventually became America about 20,000 years ago. And what a journey they took — it was a long, arduous walk over the Bering land bridge.

Why did these first immigrants come? Researchers have spent careers opining on this topic, but the Tech Guys are simple folk so we’ll tell you why: to search for a better life. People don’t walk thousands of miles because they are bored. They do it because they are motivated to improve their situation and to give their children a better chance than they had. Of course, most American families have only been in the USA for at most a few generations. Rare are the descendants of the original Bering trekkers or the Jamestown colonists.

Despite America’s challenges, is there any other country which has done a better job of integrating and assimilating people from all over the world?  Is there any other society that is so open in discussing troubles, differences, conflicts and history — yet so optimistic in embracing what binds people together? Our friends and colleagues from all over the world are amazed at how candidly Americans acknowledge and confront the challenges of running a country composed of people from countless traditions, religions, languages, ethnicities and countries of origin.

There are as many types of immigrants as there are immigrants — each one is special and unique. America has benefited from us all: low-skilled and high-skilled, rich and poor. Other countries focus on admitting only the rich and the skilled, however the USA has focused on admitting family members, the low-skilled and the economically disadvantaged. We think this has been good for America because it keeps families together, grows communities and produces motivated citizens. Patrick grew up in a house with nine people and one toilet, and can report firsthand that such an environment motivates one to study diligently and work hard.

One never knows where the next Bill Gates, Bill Boeing, or Sergey Brin is going to come from. The next person who creates a world-changing company may be a recent immigrant or someone whose family has been here for centuries. Most likely, it will be a combination of several, as Americans inter-marry among classes more often than people in other countries. Thus it is silly and unproductive to spend too much time trying to label people.

The seed corn of this country is clearly the large number of immigrants searching for a better life. However, our traditional immigration policy is ill-equipped to help the current state of the American economy, which is in desperate need of supercharging. We don’t have the luxury of time and thus the traditional American way of letting in solely the huddled masses isn’t quite enough.