No matter where you stand on the question of immigration reform, one thing we all agree on is that national security and the continued safety of all we hold dear is of the utmost importance. This stance is backed up by our national budget, which allots 54% of federal discretionary spending on national security measures.
In order to maintain our robust national security and stance as a global superpower, we must endow our current scientific, research, and educational institutions with the best that the world has to offer in skills, theory, and technical know-how. In many cases, obtaining those resources requires thoughtful, legal immigration that encourages the greatest minds of our time to join the ranks of American scientists.
Only with a global effort can the United States maintain its dedication to innovation, invention, and advancements that promote our national security and ability to participate fully in the creation of future technologies.
America as a Global Superpower
America leads the charge in GDP (gross domestic product) with nearly 21 trillion dollars annually, pulling far ahead of second runner up China, who sat at $13.5 trillion at the end of 2018.
At the same time, our growth rate is slowly dropping. As of now, we experience a national growth of around 3% annually, but experts predict that this rate could drop to 2% by next year. Meanwhile, China continues its growth rate at an impressive 6% and is expected to continue as such, leaving us in the #2 spot by 2030.
Losing our spot as the leading global economy is not ideal, and allowing it to happen renders us complacent with our past accomplishments. Instead, we must forge ahead, constantly seeking ways in which to insert ourselves into the major projects of our times: artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and genetic engineering.
Doing so requires an investment in legal immigration that welcomes the scientists, educators, and technical specialists that can bring new perspectives and research into the fields from outside of our borders.
Scientific Competition on a Global Scale
As American anti-immigration rhetoric continues to rear its head, countries across the world are encouraging highly skilled immigrants to join their ranks in universities and research facilities. This rhetoric is reaching the ears of some of the most talented scientists that the world has to offer, encouraging them to seek employment and opportunity elsewhere.
According to William Kerr, the D’Arbeloff Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the book The Gift of Global Talent, “Almost any way you look at it—percentages of patents, Nobel Prize winners, citations, entrepreneurs—immigrants match or exceed native US workers.”
While at face value, this may seem like it fills positions that could have been filled by American scientists, that is simply not the case. Such positions are created for the person, not vice versa.
Kenny Paterson, professor in the information security group at Royal Holloway at the University of London, recently wrote, “I collaborate with people in the U.S., with people in France and Germany. Science knows no borders and these kinds of immigration controls get in the way of the advancement of the United States and the advancement of humanity.”
Researchers are constantly seeking new sources of knowledge and information that can contribute to America’s posture in the technological and scientific world. American scientists are not losing positions and work due to foreign-born cohorts. Instead, they are furthering their work and creating incredible advancements in national security technology that simply would not be possible, or at least not as quickly, without the help of global leaders in the field.
The Future of National Security
With China nipping at our heels when it comes to the economy and technology, America must seek solutions that allow us to maintain our position at the head of the table. Like a modern day Space Race, it is of the utmost importance that we continue finding new ways to keep our country and our citizens safe through advancements in science and technology. It is both a matter of pride and national welfare that we do not fall behind the curve.
With advancements in artificial intelligence, we could save the lives of our active duty military, using AI robots that complete dangerous missions without the threat to humans. In fact, Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, is calling for immigration reform that “Include[s] a special visa program for AI students and experts,” and claims that “providing 10,000 new visas for AI specialists, and more for experts in other STEM fields, would revitalize our country’s research ecosystem, empower our country’s innovation economy, and ensure that the United States remains a world superpower in the coming decades.”
Cybersecurity requires keen minds and new perspectives to continually improve its ability to detect and eliminate vulnerabilities in networks. This allows us to continue using “smart” technology to eliminate hacking attempts into our country’s confidential information systems, such as those at the Pentagon.
Nanotechnology allows scientists and engineers to create impossible devices, such as batteries the size of a human hair, that could change the way we prepare for and recover from natural disasters in the event of grid failure.
In these fields and beyond, legal immigrants contribute in innumerable ways. From research and development to the education of future generations of scientists, our ability to continue growing as a country requires a global perspective.
Given the state of international technological development and its implications on the economy and national security, it is irresponsible to turn away top scientists, researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs who want to relocate to America. We should be soliciting them as a matter of economic and national security.