Want Jobs?

High skilled immigrants can bring new jobs to this country.

By + More
Visa and passport
Visa and passport

The partisan battles over immigration reform and tax policy raise a fundamental question: who are the real "job creators?"

The Washington Post, in an excellent account, offers an unorthodox answer. It's not the very wealthy who are (necessarily) the so-called job creators. It's the would-be immigrant innovators, the folks being educated at top-notch universities here and who just might create a new technological device that will not only improve our lives but actually create jobs in the process. The stellar Kevin Sullivan tells the tale of Anurag Bajpayee and Prakash Narayan Govindan, two Indian nationals who have come up with a way to do cleaner disposal of the contaminated water produced by "fracking," hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas. The foreign team is closing in on millions in financing, and plan to hire 100 employees in the next couple of years, the Post reports.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Except that Bajpayee and Govindan might not be allowed to stay in America. Both were here on student visas, and if they want to stay and actually use the education they acquired at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to better the environment and economy of their adopted country. Ironically, to extend their student visas, both men must show that they are here to be students only—hard to do if one is getting ready to peddle breakthrough technology. And to get a visa to stay here, they would probably have to apply for an "EB-1" visa for people with extraordinary talents. While it sounds like the two men would meet that standard, they might not: the special visa applies to people who have won a major award, such as an Oscar or Olympic medal. And it's not as though the men have nowhere else to take their brilliance (and the jobs it will likely create). Canada, Sullivan reports, has a program that provides permanent residency to folks like Bajpayee and Govindan.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are focused on creating jobs through tax policy. There is some merit to this; high taxation can indeed discourage an employer from hiring. But the reluctance to hire—especially by big companies that are now making record profits—is driven by the uncertainty of the market. People are unsure of where the economy is going, so they aren't buying things. That makes it less likely for companies to produce more, since they, in turn, are unsure of demand. But it is not the case that the economy hinges on very wealthy people needing more and more money—so much that they simply can't stand it anymore, and will feel forced to hire someone to get rid of some of the annoying extra cash.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

We are, most of us, descendants of immigrants. Some of us are job creators and some of us—equally, if not more importantly—are the job-doers. We need to stop seeing any potential new resident of this country as an economic threat. They may be our economic saviors.

  • Read Peter Roff: The U.S. Needs Washington's Birthday, Not Just President's Day
  • Read Susan Milligan: Don't Focus on Oscar Pistorius But on Domestic Violence and Guns
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.

  • Corrected on 2/20/2013: A previous version of this blog post misstated the amount Anurag Bajpayee and Prakash Narayan Govindan are raising. They are closing in on millions of dollars of financing.