Is the Nation of Immigrants Becoming a Nation of Emigrants?
Editor’s Note: Vivek Wadhwa has emerged in recent years as one of the most influential thinkers on entrepreneurship, technology, and immigration. In his new book, “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent,” he documents how the United States is experiencing an unprecedented slowdown in the number of high-growth, immigrant-led start-up companies. He discussed America’s immigration landscape with THE AMERICAN’s editor-in-chief Nick Schulz.
Nick Schulz: If a spaceship were to land in the United States and extraterrestrial visitors were to listen to the nation’s discussion on immigration, they would conclude America is being overwhelmed by immigrants. And yet you have published a book called The Immigrant Exodus. What’s going on?
Vivek Wadhwa: The extraterrestrials would wonder why America is even debating this issue.
As they watched the progression of this land over the past 300 years, they saw wave after wave of immigrants bring new ideas, energy, and culture. They watched the development of the economic miracle that became the United States of America. They were impressed to see America lead the world in values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights. They saw the great advantage that America’s diversity and openness provided its people. They noted that every wave of immigrants that had just landed faced resentment and discrimination from the wave that arrived before, but was eventually accepted—and lauded for making everyone work harder and think smarter. They were delighted to see that new immigrants such as myself who have been speaking up against flawed U.S. government policies aren’t treated as pariahs—they are given national awards for being “Americans by Choice” for their “commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.”
We only provide 140,000 visas for highly skilled workers. Why not bring in two or three times as many?
The extraterrestrials, who surely regard America as the beacon of hope for humanity, would worry that America was hastening its own economic decline by reversing the immigration policies that have benefitted it, that the land of immigrants was becoming a land of emigrants, and that it was inadvertently strengthening its global competitors.