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America’s immigrant system is falling apart says The Economist

March 28, 2007

An article in the March 17-23 issue of the The Economist talks about America’s immigration policy which it believes is “demonising foreigners”. The writer of the piece has woven into his article the story of the movie – The Namesake, which is about an Indian immigrant family in America.
What the magazine says about America’s immigration policies is this:

America’s legal immigration system is falling apart at just the time when talented foreigners have more choice than ever. Many other countries—including Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany and even France—are bending over backwards to attract talented people. European companies can easily draw on the skills of an entire continent, thanks to the free movement of labour there. At the same time the Indian and Chinese economies are booming. Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro have California-style campuses, state-of-the-art equipment and generous pay packets (which, incidentally, allow employees to afford a house full of servants). American multinationals such as Microsoft are establishing research and development facilities across the developing world. Indians and Chinese were once willing to put up with any humiliation for a chance of a career in the United States. Now they have more and more choices back home.

This is in reference to new immigration laws like the 2003 one which cut H1B visas (temporary visas for highly skilled workers) from about 200,000 (which were not considered enough) to 65,000 in 2003.

Why the reference to The Namesake? Well, the movie tells the poignant story of immigrants who leave their home and settle in a foreign land and the hard time they have adjusting to the new life. The Economist says that if immigration authorities lay more obstacles in the path of new immigrants, maybe people won’t want to come at all.

American officialdom needs to stop thinking that people will tolerate any humiliation to work there. Uprooting yourself from your native culture is difficult enough, without having to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. America also needs to realise what will happen if the immigrants stop coming. University departments will grind to a halt. High-tech companies will be starved of personnel. New York could find itself eclipsed by London as the world’s financial hub.

The Namesake has shown America how the Other feels and how tough it is to live in a new place leaving family and friends behind. This story took place in the seventies and now it is even harder for foreigners, after 9/11. The fear of terrorism has made both the American people and the authorities suspicious of foreigners. There is a huge move to track illegal immigrants and this has taken its toll on genuine immigrants as well.

There cannot be a one-way relationship with a new country. As much as the immigrant needs his new country, the country too has to acknowledge that it needs him.

Related Reading: The pros and cons of a dual citizenship
Fears of globalisation in some developed countries like America
Is there a reverse brain drain?
Foreigners too like working in India -some examples
Indian Americans in the United States – how are they doing?
Asian countries trust America even if they don’t trust each other
What common values does India share with the west?

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