Commentary

Global economic growth penalizes US

Duke University executive in residence Vivek Wadwah has an article in the Washington Post that makes two crucial points worth repeating about US immigration policy. First, US immigration policy creates significant barriers to retaining the best and the brightest. Second, global economic growth is making it harder and harder for the best and the brightest to justify living and working in the US.

This article is the best one I’ve read in a long time that examines the economic implications of our inept and dysfunctional immigration policy.

The United States has always been the country to which the world’s best and brightest — people like Sandeep — have flocked in pursuit of education and to seek their fortunes. Over the past four decades, India and China suffered a major “brain drain” as tens of thousands of talented people made their way here, dreaming the American dream.

But burgeoning new economies abroad and flagging prospects in the United States have changed everything. And as opportunities pull immigrants home, the lumbering U.S. immigration bureaucracy helps push them away.

But that’s not all. Even foreign graduate students, often seeing the US as a beacon of opportunity, are flocking back to their homeland.

When I [Wadwah] started teaching at Duke University in 2005, almost all the international students graduating from our Master of Engineering Management program said that they planned to stay in the United States for at least a few years. In the class of 2009, most of our 80 international students are buying one-way tickets home. It’s the same at Harvard. Senior economics major Meijie Tang, from China, isn’t even bothering to look for a job in the United States. After hearing from other students that it’s “impossible” to get an H-1B visa — the kind given to highly-skilled workers in fields such as engineering and science — she teamed up with a classmate to start a technology company in Shanghai. Investors in China offered to put up millions even before 23-year-old Meijie and her 21-year-old colleague completed their business plan.

In a nation where 25% of all inernational patent applications list foreign nationals as inventors, and 25% of technology companies were founded by immigrants, our immigration policy is cutting the legs out from under our long-term growth and our ability to compete globally.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.