Myth or truth? Foreigners take jobs away from native-born doctors…

 

Though there is a shortage of qualified doctors in America, American makes it very difficult for qualified foreign doctors to work. Most foreign doctors, whether trained in the US or abroad, must struggle to work longer than the few years allowed under a J-1 temporary visa: they must obtain a waiver from the two year home residency requirement – a provision attached to the J-1 medical trainee visa – and then apply for a green card. In order to get this residency requirement waived, obtain longer-term stability, and not disrupt the lives of their families or the progress of their careers, they must go through an arduous process.

 

Often times, the only option they have is to commit and practice 5 years in an underserved area with a meager salary and to forego opportunities for advancement; such a decision can affect their financial and professional prospects for the rest of their lives. This is a poor reward for those foreign doctors who wish to provide much-needed healthcare to Americans.

 

Myth or truth? Foreign scientists are industrial and military spies…

 

Jobs in scientific research labs are not highly-sought by young Americans. The pay is low, glamor is rare, and hours are long. Foreign scientists, Ph.D.s, and post-docs are doing a significant amount of American research, yet most university and government labs, as well as research centers, have policies to not sponsor immigrant petitions for these talented scientists to continue their research. The rationale for this unwillingness to help grow the careers of foreign scientists in America, to help them become American, is a stigma that they may be trying to steal research for their country of origin. The work of these scientists, often performed under much suspicion and rewarded with a paycheck barely above the poverty line, is then regularly leveraged by the star principal investigators to publish papers and secure grants and status at research institutions.

While many famous and award-winning American scientists and industrialists are in fact immigrants themselves, or children of immigrants, the increasing difficulty of obtaining visas and green cards for the best and the brightest is causing us to lose our scientific and technological leadership in the world.

 

Can a Nation of Immigrants be a Nation for Immigrants?

Part 1

I am exhausted by the hateful arguments deployed against immigrants in our country – the United States, a place that has been called the Land of Opportunity. While it is true to say that America is a country of immigrants, it requires a short memory to believe that fear and distrust of immigrants are unique to our time: historically, whenever the country has faced hardship, it has always been easier to blame ‘the others’ and than to see the problems in ‘us’. Fortunately, we are in a position today to educate each other on the truth about immigrant contributions to our economy and our culture. Let us examine some of the prevailing myths surrounding immigrants in America.

Myth or truth? Immigrants are taking advantage of American taxpayers…

A country’s future can be seen in the average age of its population. Europe’s global economic influence has faded while Japan’s economy has stagnated. Why? Because as their populations age, these countries are becoming less productive and more burdened by social benefits. American society would be in a similar situation, collapsing under the weight of its own social security system, if not for the ongoing influx of young, vibrant, and hard-working immigrants.

Foreign workers on H-1B visas, who are wrongly blamed for the job loss of native-born Americans, pay social security taxes out of their paychecks, without ever knowing if they will be able to stay more than their initial 3 years of H-1B authorized stay; in many ways, immigrants contribute to American programs they may never benefit from, without the protections afforded to American citizens. They can be fired at the whim of their employers with a minimum grace period to stay while they think over the next steps for their future. When that happens, they are not entitled to unemployment insurance, although they paid for it through taxation, since they have to leave promptly under the law; their house and/or possessions have to be sold, their lease must end abruptly, and their children cannot finish out their school year.

Further, a majority of undocumented immigrants are paying American taxes as well – whether through a false social security card or tax identification number and through everyday purchases and rent. The true beneficiaries of our broken tax system are the rich, who are able take advantage of tax shelters, complex legal loopholes, and government subsidies.

Ultimately, immigrants are an important part of the tax base: they pay for our elderly, our highways, Medicare, our schools, and even for our military.

Myth or truth? Foreign students are a burden on our society…

 

Two of America’s largest industries are Hollywood and, maybe surprisingly, higher education. Many colleges and universities are profitable businesses with significant portions of their revenue being driven by foreign students. Without the tuition and living expenses they pay, many jobs in colleges and college towns, as well as tax revenue generated from student purchases, would be lost. Despite the economic benefits of international students, many are forced to miss portions of their academic experience because of visa delays at the US consulates. Once they arrive in the US, many students fall out of legal status because they do not received adequate support from their college or university to guide them through the maze of legal procedures. Too often, international students must leave the United States without completing their intended course of study, depriving them and America of the benefits of their presence in our education system.

Foreign students do not just study, spend money, and leave. They also learn about American values, our culture, and our people. When they return to their own country, or decide or find a way to stay here, they want to do business with Americans and often open up their connections back home. Globalization is not optional in a contemporary world; it is a fact of economic reality that the rest of the world already has grasped. By subjecting foreign students to hostile treatment at US consulates abroad during the visa application process, it unnecessarily lowers the likelihood of America benefitting from some of the world’s brightest, best-connected young people. In many ways, foreign students are gold nuggets lying in our riverbeds and we should treat them as such.