(Friday’s Populist Capitalist Blog Post)
We read frequently about illegal immigrants paying huge sums to be smuggled into the United States.
At the same time, some incredibly smart, capable people often can’t get U.S. work visas; the super-smart people we should much prefer having on our economic team rather than on the other side.
So, a “modest proposal” or two, just a couple of ideas to kick around, some stuff to think about:
1. Auction work and permanent visas. There are lots of ways to do it. Could do a monthly sealed-bid auction, accept some fixed number, say, the top 10,000 or top 100,000 bids. Have to pass criminal background check if you win. Those wanting to be sure would bid in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. After a few months getting rid of the backlog, predictable patterns should emerge and ordinary folk of more modest means should be able to obtain visas in the range of tens of thousands of dollars and, one hopes, put illegal smugglers out of business. Indeed, the number of visas awarded could be targeted to get the price down to where economic forces might do what billions of taxpayer dollars spent on border control have not accomplished. The funds raised (and money saved on the INS and border patrol) could go to reduce the deficit, cut taxes, or other socially-desirable goals.
2. Award visas based upon 130+ IQ** (top 9%) or other verifiable way of “super” contributing to the economy, similar to the current H-1 visa program but virtually unlimited. Currently, “byzantine and increasingly restrictive visa and immigration rules” (see New York Times article below) keep America from attracting and hiring the world’s best and brightest, leaving them to compete AGAINST us instead of on our behalf.
** The average IQ for a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. is 115.
IQ stands for intelligence quotient. Supposedly, it is a score that tells one how “bright” a person is compared to other people. The average IQ is by definition 100; scores above 100 indicate a higher than average IQ and scores below 100 indicate a lower than average IQ.
Theoretically, scores can range any amount below or above 100, but in practice they do not meaningfully go much below 50 or above 150. Half of the population has IQs of between 90 and 110, while 25% have higher IQs and 25% have lower IQs.
Descriptive Classifications of Intelligence Quotients
IQ Description % of Population
130+ Very superior 2.2%
120-129 Superior 6.7%
110-119 High average 16.1%
90-109 Average 50%
80-89 Low average 16.1%
70-79 Borderline 6.7%
Below 70 Extremely low 2.2%
Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules
Technology executives say restrictive visa and immigration limits have imperiled their ability to hire more of the world’s best engineers.
The New York Times
April 11, 2009
By MATT RICHTEL
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Where’s Sanjay?
The question comes from one of dozens of engineers around a crowded conference table at Google. They have gathered to discuss how to build easy-to-use maps that could turn hundreds of millions of mobile phones into digital Sherpas——guiding travelers to businesses, restaurants and landmarks.
“His plane gets in at 9:30,” the group’s manager responds.
Google is based here in Silicon Valley. But Sanjay G. Mavinkurve, one of the key engineers on this project, is not.
Mr. Mavinkurve, a 28-year-old Indian immigrant who helped lay the foundation for Facebook while a student at Harvard, instead works out of a Google sales office in Toronto, a lone engineer among marketers.
He has a visa to work in the United States, but his wife, Samvita Padukone, also born in India, does not. So he moved to Canada.
“Every American I’ve talked to says: ‘Dude, it’s ridiculous that we’re not doing everything we can to keep you in the country. We need people like you!’” he said.
“The people of America get it,” he added. “And in a matter of time, I think current lawmakers are going to realize how dumb they’re being.”
Immigrants like Mr. Mavinkurve are the lifeblood of Google and Silicon Valley, where half the engineers were born overseas, up from 10 percent in 1970. Google and other big companies say the Chinese, Indian, Russian and other immigrant technologists have transformed the industry, creating wealth and jobs.
Just over half the companies founded in Silicon Valley from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s had founders born abroad, according to Vivek Wadhwa, an immigration scholar working at Duke and Harvard.
The foreign-born elite dating back even further includes Andrew S. Grove, the Hungarian-born co-founder of Intel; Jerry Yang, the Chinese-born co-founder of Yahoo; Vinod Khosla of India and Andreas von Bechtolsheim of Germany, the co-founders of Sun Microsystems; and Google’s Russian-born co-founder, Sergey Brin.
But technology executives say that byzantine and increasingly restrictive visa and immigration rules have imperiled their ability to hire more of the world’s best engineers.
While it could be said that Mr. Mavinkurve’s case is one of a self-entitled immigrant refusing to live in the United States because his wife would not be able to work, he exemplifies how immigration policies can chase away a potential entrepreneur who aspires to create wealth and jobs here.
His case highlights the technology industry’s argument that the United States will struggle to compete if it cannot more easily hire foreign-born engineers.
“We are watching the decline and fall of the United States as an economic power — not hypothetically, but as we speak,” said Craig R. Barrett, the chairman of Intel.
Mr. Barrett blames a slouching education system that cannot be easily fixed, but he says a stopgap measure would be to let companies hire more foreign engineers.
“With a snap of the fingers, you can say, ‘I’m going to make it such that those smart kids — and as many of them as want to — can stay in the United States.’ They’re here today, they’re graduating today — and they’re going home today.”
He is opposed by staunch foes of liberalized immigration and by advocates for American-born engineers.
“There are probably two billion people in the world who would like to live in California and work, but not everyone in the world can live here,” said Kim Berry, an engineer who operates a nonprofit advocacy group for American-born technologists. “There are plenty of Americans to do these jobs.”
The debate has only sharpened as the country’s economic downturn has deepened. Advocates for American-born workers are criticizing companies that lay off employees even as they retain engineers living here on visas. But the technology industry counters that innovations from highly skilled workers are central to American long-term growth.
It is a debate well known to Google, and it is a deeply personal one to Mr. Mavinkurve.
Sanjay Mavinkurve (pronounced MAY-vin-kur-VAY) was born in Bombay to working-class parents who soon moved to Saudi Arabia.
He thought everything important in life was American — from Baskin-Robbins and Nike Airs to the Hardees’s and Domino’s in the food court at the shopping mall. When in the car, he and his older brother played a game, naming all the things they could see that came from the United States.
“I know this sounds romantic, but it’s true: I always wanted to come to America,” said Mr. Mavinkurve, lanky, with bushy hair and an easy smile. “I admired everything in the way America portrayed itself — the opportunity, U.S. Constitution, its history, enterprising middle class.”