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Brain Gain

Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy

Brain Gain by Darrell M. West
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Many of America’s greatest artists, chefs, investors, entrepreneurs, and leaders have come from abroad. Advances in atomic energy, information technology, international commerce, sports, arts, and culture are directly attributable to talented immigrants. Indeed, America experiences a “brain gain” from in-migration, and therefore needs to maintain its openness to new arrivals to stay competitive and gain access to the special talents of other lands. Yet many Americans still don’t see it that way, despite pride in their own ethnic ancestries.In Brain Gain, Darrell West addresses why immigration policy is so politically difficult in the United States despite the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits it brings. The problem is largely one of vision. U.S. policy ought torecognize and reflect the tremendous benefits of bringing in new blood, yet public discourse and political debates tend to emphasize the perceived downsides. Fear too often trumps optimism and reason.Democracy is messy, with policy principles that are hard to reconcile. The seeming irrationality of U.S. immigration policy arises from a variety of thorny and interrelated factors: particularistic politics and fragmented institutions, concern regarding educational and employment opportunities, anger over taxes and social services, and ambivalence about national identity, culture, and language. Add to that stew a myopic press, persistent fears of terrorism, and the difficulties of implementing border enforcement and legal justice. No wonder we can’t see the forest for the trees.West argues for a series of reforms to U.S. immigration policy, including the following:• Improve legal justice• Take border security more seriously• Tighten employment verification• Depoliticize political conflict through an independent commission• Tie immigration levels to national economic cycles• Take stronger steps to integrate new immigrants into American lifeThese reforms will put America on a better course for the future and enhance our longterm social and economic prosperity. Reconceptualizing immigration will help us find the next Sergey Brin, the next Vartan Gregorian, or even the next Albert Einstein.Contents1. The Costs and Benefits of Immigration 2. Competing Policy Principles 3. Overcoming Particularistic Politics 4. Problematic Media Coverage5. Shifting Public Opinion6. Porous Borders and Unequal Justice7. The Einstein Principle
Brookings Institution Press; Read online
Title: Brain Gain
Author: Darrell M. West

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