Bill Gates Was Right About Immigration

I’m totally opposed to illegal immigration and wouldn’t mind seeing the number of people allowed to emigrate legally to this country slashed either, but I think Bill Gates is (mostly) right about this:

“Bill Gates, the chairman of Micro:­soft, on Wednesday warned that restrictions on the number of skilled workers allowed to enter the US put the country’s competitiveness at risk.

The comments marked the latest attack on restrictive US immigration policies by the technology industry, which is facing a shortage of skilled workers even as demand for their skills is increasing.

Speaking before the Senate committee on health, education, labour and pensions, Mr Gates said that tighter US immigration policies — governed partly by concerns over terrorism — were “driving away the world’s best and brightest precisely when we need them most”.

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“It makes no sense to tell well-trained, highly skilled individuals, many of whom are educated at our top colleges and universities, that the United States does not welcome or value them,” Mr Gates said. “America will find it infinitely more difficult to maintain its technological leadership if it shuts out the very people who are most able to help us compete.”

First of all, let me tell you where I disagree with Gates. As an employee who worked for an ISP, I can tell you that the biggest reason that companies love these foreign, high end tech workers is that they can pay them a lot less than what an American with the same skills would be worth. So PART of the reason that some companies have a “shortage” of these heavily skilled workers is the same reason that other companies that hire manual laborers say they can’t fill a staff: they simply don’t want to pay the sort of wages that would insure that they have enough workers.

Of course, even if everyone paid these workers what they were worth, there still wouldn’t be enough of them to go around, which brings us to Gates’ point. The way that we handle immigrants in this country, legal and illegal, makes no sense.

Here you have the Senate crafting a bill that’s designed to make as many poor, uneducated, unskilled, manual laborers into American citizens as humanly possible, when we know that if they become citizens they’re going to be net drains on the economy. If we’re going to be increasing the number of US citizens coming into the country, why wouldn’t we prefer an engineer from India to a ditch digger from Mexico (or for that matter, an engineer from Mexico to a ditch digger from India)? There’s nothing wrong with any honest job, ditch digger included, but there’s also nothing wrong with being a highly skilled professional and making more of those people into US citizens would greatly benefit us as a nation.

We have the most desirable country in the world to get into and in coming years, you’re going to see more and more people wanting to come here, especially from Europe. So, why shouldn’t we rewrite our immigration laws to take full advantage of it? Why shouldn’t we prefer highly skilled, educated individuals over uneducated individuals with no skills? Why shouldn’t we prefer people from other Western cultures to people from non-Western cultures? Why shouldn’t our immigration laws be designed to primarily benefit those of us who live here in the United States?

The answer is that they should and I can tell you that I, for one, would be happy to see a significant increase, instead of a decrease, in the number of people allowed to become American citizens each year if we rewrote our immigration laws to take full advantage of our status as the most desired place to emigrate to in the world.

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