What Peter Eisner of PBS NewsHour can't figure out about skilled immigration
Peter Eisner of PBS NewsHour offers a propaganda piece manqué entitled "Tight immigration rules divert high tech brains from Seattle to Santiago" ( peekURL.com/zsbjpQs ). Normally such propaganda pieces tell a tale of woe designed to promote more skilled immigration to the U.S., encouraging "stapling a green card" to the diplomas of foreigners who graduate from U.S. colleges.
Eisner misses his mark by telling a tale of success, even if he and PBS can't figure it out. From the transcript:
PETER EISNER: What draws a high tech furniture maker all the way from Ireland to Santiago, Chile? Or convinces a neuroscientist from the University of Michigan to set up business here?
PETER EISNER: At the time of [an earthquake in Chile], Nicolás Shea was a graduate student at Stanford University. Shea wanted to help his country [note: Chile] rebuild. But how could this budding entrepreneur help the recovery effort? Inspiration came to him when he saw how foreign students attending Stanford were forced to leave the United States after graduation because of difficulties getting a visa.
NICOLÁS SHEA: Literally there were hundreds and thousands of, you know, to-be entrepreneurs that were not being and are not being welcomed in the U.S.
And I remember, you know, thinking, how much, if I were president or I had-- I was in a position of power, how much would I pay each one of these individuals to come and spend some time in Chile?
PETER EISNER: Shay was thinking about people like James McBennett, of Dublin, Ireland. McBennett’s company, Fabsie, uses computers to control woodworking tools like this. The machine cuts a piece of furniture to exact specifications so it can fit in, say, a small New York City apartment.
...PETER EISNER: The first that comes to mind, for a customizable furniture start-up, there’s a natural market in the United States. Why not do this in the United States?
JAMES MCBENNETT: For me to go there personally, I can't do it for visa reasons.
PETER EISNER: That’s where Nicolás Shea comes in. he realized that Chile could be that place. [On Shea's prompting, the Chilean government created a "Start-Up Chile" program where they'd give small grants to entrepreneurs, in exchange for those entrepreneurs lecturing Chileans with the goal of becoming a "country with a culture of entrepreneurs" per the head of the program. They've awarded 663 grants so far.]
...PETER EISNER: That cultural change is starting to take root. More than 20 percent of applications for Start-up Chile now come from Chile itself, like Daniel Ibarra. A couple years ago, Ibarra could dream of starting a multinational business.
DANIEL IBARRA: If you talk to someone that already made a internet company and was successful and he started from Chile or he started from Colombia or he started from Mexico, then you say, "Well, this not only happens in the States, I mean, it could happen also in Chile."
...PETER EISNER: The question, though, is how Chile measures the success of the program that gives seed money and support to its participants without asking for any stake in the company? While the data is still being collected and the numbers still imprecise, Shay says that the investment has been net positive because the foreign entrepreneurs spend money in Santiago, friends and family visit from abroad, and on average two to four Chileans are hired for every start-up funded.
...PETER EISNER: Beyond the numbers, Start-up Chile has put Chilicon Valley on the map as a high tech hub in Latin America.
...PETER EISNER: As for Irish entrepreneur James McBennett, he’s grateful to Chile for the opportunity he’s been given. But like most foreign entrepreneurs that have gone through the program he’ll probably be hitting the road when the he graduates from Start-Up Chile.
PETER EISNER: So what's the next stop for you in developing your idea after Chile?
...JAMES MCBENNET: Well, I think to scale the company that Brooklyn is very much needed. It's almost jumping through loopholes to get there
On one hand, it would be good for economic activity in the U.S. to have people like McBennet start up their companies here. But, long-term, it's also a great benefit for both the U.S. and Chile to have him start up his company there. Our loss is also our gain: prosperous countries tend to cause the U.S. fewer problems than those that aren't (see question #5). If there were something like "Start Up Mexico", wouldn't that greatly benefit the U.S. such as through decreased illegal immigration and decreased crime?
Further, people like McBennet seem rootless and his only reason for moving to the U.S. seems to be his own economic well-being. Are such people a good fit for the U.S.? Shouldn't we be focusing on potential immigrants whose main goal is to become an American rather than just make money?
Want to do something about this? Look up those who talk to @PeterEisner or who promote NewsHour pieces about immigration, and ask why Eisner and the News Hour didn't raise those points.