Wednesday, November 21, 2012

300,000 Undocumented Immigrants Have Applied for Deportation        

In the three months since the Obama Administration implemented a program that gives a reprieve from deportation to certain undocumented immigrants, about 300,000 have applied, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Some 50,000, or 17 percent, have been approved, the newspaper said, citing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. Approval enables immigrants to obtain work permits.

“I am elated that so many applications are coming in and now that the fear of Romney winning is out of the way,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, in a statement quoted by the newspaper. “I think a half-million applications by New Year's should be our goal.”

The program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, requires immigrants to be 31 or younger, and to have arrived in the United States before the age of 16, besides other criteria.

The program does not give the immigrants legal status, only a waiver from deportation for two years.

Most of the applicants were from Mexico, the newspaper said, not surprising given that most undocumented immigrants are from there. South Koreans comprised the largest non-Latino group, the newspaper said.

California led all states with the most applicants, with 81,500, followed by Texas, which had 47,700, the Monitor reported.

More than 1 million are believed to be eligible to apply for DACA.

Obama announced the DACA initiative in June, as criticism mounted about his failure to come through on his 2008 campaign promise to push comprehensive immigration reform.

In 2010, the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act, a bill that would have given undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors a path to legalization. But the bill died in the Senate, where a vote in its favor fell short of the number needed to stop a Republican-led filibuster.

DACA helped boost Latino voter support for Obama, though polls consistently showed that the majority of Latinos preferred him over his GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who took a hard-line on illegal immigration.

Those who support giving undocumented immigrants brought as minors a path to legalization say that they should not be punished for the decisions and actions of others. Those who oppose DACA and the DREAM Act say they amount to amnesty that rewards law breakers.

Romney had vowed to veto any DREAM Act version if he became president, and said he would not continue DACA.


An innovation crisis?

I suppose it would be churlish to say it is just an area where there is room for improvement  -- but I am not a Californian

By Christopher Newfield, a Professor at UC Santa Barbara

In the recent presidential campaign, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney said anything meaningful about how to fix the U.S. innovation system. Both ran as status quo candidates who acted as though there was nothing to fix. Virtually no one who follows the issue agrees with this, but for the moment the political system remains oblivious.

About ten years ago, I began to hear murmurs from high-tech industry people that American innovation wasn't working as advertized. Some of this was disappointment tied to the dot-com bust, but most of it consisted of people looking ahead in their particular technology-based industry and not seeing much. I had a number of off-guard conversations at wedding receptions or post-conference airport cabs in which someone would say, "we don't really have a next big thing in the pipeline anymore." I heard this from a pharma scientist in 2002, then from a corporate computer engineer, and something similar from IT executives at different firms over the ensuing months. Official reports started coming out, such as "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" (2005), which warned that the U.S. was losing its innovation lead. At the time, however, most people assumed, like Romney and Obama this year, that the innovation system just needed a few tweaks and bigger inputs --- more funding for research, more science and engineering (STEM) graduates.

Phase 2 arrived a few years ago, and the gathering storm became a heavy rain. We now have a steady patter of worried, critical books, sometimes written by the U.S. innovation system's biggest boosters. There was Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek cover story in November 2009, bluntly titled, "Can America Still Innovate?" This was followed by his book, The Post-American World (2011). New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman captured the same problem in his title, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

Many systematic academic studies have been moving in the same direction. In 2007, Richard Florida published The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, whose implications for the U.S. innovation system is clear in the subtitle.

More recently, the economist Robert J. Gordon caused a stir with his NBER paper offering quantitative evidence that the rate of increase of multi-factor productivity was higher in 1928-1950 than in the vaunted Internet era. Scholars are now questioning the effectiveness of one after the other of our main innovation pillars. In a recent book by two principals at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell, note that over the past 30 years the U.S. has lost its position in one major industry after another -- consumer electronics, capital goods industries, machine tools, automobiles. The same then happened in the high-tech sector, when U.S. market share slid in industries from printed circuit boards and desktop and notebook PCs to liquid crystal displays (LCDs), advanced batteries, and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Moreover, U.S. leadership in the industries that will define the future -- including high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, energy storage, and clean energy production -- is by no means assured (33).

Why do these declines keep happening? Every element of the country's past success is coming under scrutiny -- the patent process, the higher education system, and the condition of the physical and digital infrastructures, among many others. One perennial target is the bottleneck in U.S. access to the world's technical workforce. This is the subject of Vivek Wadhwa's new book, The Immigrant Exodus, in which he claims that U.S. innovation is gravely threatened by a greatly inadequate number of visas for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Building on statistical research by AnnaLee Saxenian, Wadhwa shows first, that Silicon Valley companies have had a high dependence on immigrant founders, and second, that the ranks of these founders are no longer growing as expected. From 1995 to 2005, he writes, "more than 25 percent of all the technology and engineering companies in the country had one or more immigrant founders. The proportion of technology and engineering companies in Silicon Valley with at least one immigrant founder was 52 percent." A large share of these entrepreneurs came from two countries, India and China (which together have 35 percent of the world's population). India has been a particularly large donor to the skilled California workforce: during the 1990s, "the population of Indian scientists and engineers (S&E) in Silicon Valley grew by 646 percent" (six times the growth rate of the S&E workforce overall). As a result, "within a decade the proportion of Indian-led startups had increased from 7 percent to 13.4 percent."

The problem, as Wadhwa defines it, is that this immigrant flow "has slowed and reversed to an Immigrant Exodus." The term is riveting -- "exodus" suggests a sudden mass outflow of biblical proportions. The book does not actually present evidence of this kind of a reversal. When Wadhwa conducts a 2012 followup to a previous nationwide survey, he finds that "the proportion of immigrant-founded companies had slid from 25.3 percent to 24.3 percent." Wadhwa's research thus indicates not an exodus but a stagnation of immigrant entrepreneurship. He believes that this stagnation indicates a peak and a possible turning point in the proportion of U.S start-ups that are lead by immigrants.

Although the title, Immigrant Exodus, overstates the problem, there is little doubt that the U.S. visa system is clogged. Wadhwa nicely describes the discouraging effects of the long waits and uncertain outcomes on thousands and thousands of highly educated immigrants. His solution consists of seven visa reforms. One is to break open the quota system by eliminating the 7-percent-per-country limit for employment-based and related visas (only 7 percent of visas each year can at present be granted to nationals from a given country). Another is to increase by "3 or 4 times the number of employment-based green cards issued per annum." He also advocates letting spouses of H-1B visa holders work, and proposes a new "start-up visa."

Wadhwa claims that his visa reforms would get the growth in the number of immigrant entrepreneurs back on its earlier, New Economy pathway. This would in turn, he says, give a jolt to the overall American economy: "these measures could conservatively add $100 billion to $150 billion in revenues to the U.S. economy and generate between 1 million and 1.5 million jobs." Since STEM employment is about 6 percent of U.S. employment, or roughly 8 million jobs, Wadhwa is suggesting that ending current visa restrictions could increase U.S. STEM employment by 20 percent in the coming years.


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