Thursday, April 22, 2004

The New York Times > Op-Ed Columnist Thomas L. Friedman
: Losing Our Edge?
:: Again, Friedman is right. There is a major problem in America if we can't attract to best and brightest tech folks to work here, or if they aren't allowed to.

Free trade and open markets rely heavily on the ability to emigrate freely. People complain about the flood of immigrants that would result from opening our borders, and indeed they would need to be socialized to our beliefs in hard work and personal responsibility. But, that's not the problem.

There are two main problems with immigration. First, we have made it the government's job to take care of those who can't or won't take care of themselves. This is a huge problem, not only because it destroys the social fabric of personal responsibility and a drive towards self actualization, but also because it means that we logistically cannot support a flood of immigrants. Perhaps the best thing for this country would be to completely open our borders, while ensuring that people don't come here just to be supported by the government.

The second problem with immigration is terrorism. I have a friend who is Indian but lived a good deal of his life in Kuwait (this, apparently, is quite common). He started with the rest of us first year graduate students at the Robotics Institute, after spending 4 years in America on a visa at USC. After the first semester, he went back to India over the winter break. Though this next semester is almost over, he is STILL THERE. Apparently there was a problem in shifting the visa he had from USC to one from CMU, especially because robotics is on par with nuclear engineering as far as DHS is concerned. I'm all for government checks, but if they are going to take months (and maybe years), I really don't see the point.

Everyone knows that a bureaucracy is inefficient, but somehow we just aren't paying attention. How the hell does America hope to defend itself against an agile and flexible threat like Al Queda by using an even larger bureaucracy than the FBI and CIA combined? Let me repeat myself: the government is spending at least 5 months looking into the background of someone I am certain is 100% NOT a threat. Imagine the resources the takes, like something out of Brazil. This can't be a good thing.

I would feel less safe but better off in the long run if we just let everyone in and had more surveillance in America to stop attacks. I certainly have little faith in the government to stop a future attack, but the most effective means seem to have little to do with immigration: DOJ making arrests through intelligence gathering, CIA & special forces operations in terrorist breeding grounds, and stopping the private money and governmental support for these organizations.

Stopping Sanjeev Koppal from coming back to America from India is clearly not the solution. At least he won't be looking to be on the dole when he finally makes it back.

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