First I had to laugh. Then I had to cry. I recently took part in commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.one of America's great science and engineering schools. One by one, the announcer read the names of the Ph.D. students as each was handed his or her doctoratein biotechnology, computing, physics, and engineeringby the school's president, Shirley Ann Jackson.
The reason I had to laugh was because it seemed like every one of the newly minted Ph.D.'s was foreign-born. As the foreign names kept coming"Hong Lu, Xu Xie, Tao Yuan, Fu Tang"I thought that the entire class of doctoral students in physics were going to be Chinese, until "Paul Shane Morrow" saved the day.
It was such a caricature of what Jackson herself calls "the quiet crisis" in high-end science education in the U.S. that you could only laugh.
My complaint and why I also wanted to crywas that there wasn't someone from Citizenship and Immigration Services standing there stapling green cards to the diplomas of each of these foreign-born Ph.D.'s. I want them all to stay, become Americans, and do their research and innovation here.
If we can't educate enough of our own kids to compete at this level, we'd better make sure we can import someone else'sotherwise we will not maintain our standard of living.
It is pure idiocy that Congress will not open our bordersas wide as possibleto attract and keep the world's first-round intellectual draft choices.
I think any foreign student who gets a Ph.D. in our countryin any subjectshould be offered citizenship. The idea that we actually make it difficult for them to stay is crazy.
Technology companies are pleading with Congress to boost both the number of visas available to companies that want to bring in skilled foreign workers and the number of employment-based green cards given to high-tech foreign workers who want to stay here.
Give them all they want! Our companies need these workers now, and over time they will start many more companies and create many more good jobs than they can possibly displace.
Folks, we can't keep being stupid about these things. You can't have a world where foreign-born students dominate your science graduate schoolsand then go back to their home countries to start companies and create jobswithout it eventually affecting our standard of living.