Brain Gain

Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy

Darrell M. West
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 182
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt4cg7xf
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  • Book Info
    Brain Gain
    Book Description:

    Many of America's greatest artists, scientists, investors, educators, and entrepreneurs have come from abroad. Rather than suffering from the "brain drain" of talented and educated individuals emigrating, the United States has benefited greatly over the years from the "brain gain" of immigration. These gifted immigrants have engineered advances in energy, information technology, international commerce, sports, arts, and culture. To stay competitive, the United States must institute more of an open-door policy to attract unique talents from other nations. Yet Americans resist such a policy despite their own immigrant histories and the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits of welcoming newcomers. Why?

    InBrain Gain, Darrell West asserts that perception or "vision" is one reason reform in immigration policy is so politically difficult. Public discourse tends to emphasize the perceived negatives. Fear too often trumps optimism and reason. And democracy is messy, with policy principles that are often difficult to reconcile.

    The seeming irrationality of U.S. immigration policy arises from a variety of thorny and interrelated factors: particularistic politics and fragmented institutions, public concern regarding education and employment, anger over taxes and social services, and ambivalence about national identity, culture, and language. Add to that stew a myopic (or worse) press, persistent fears of terrorism, and the difficulties of implementing border enforcement and legal justice.

    West prescribes a series of reforms that will put America on a better course and enhance its long-term social and economic prosperity. Reconceptualizing immigration as a way to enhance innovation and competitiveness, the author notes, will help us find the next Sergey Brin, the next Andrew Grove, or even the next Albert Einstein.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2231-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF IMMIGRATION
    (pp. 1-20)

    FEW ISSUES ARE MORE CONTROVERSIAL than immigration.¹ The flood of illegal immigrants across U.S. borders enrages many native-born residents who believe that immigrants compete for jobs, unfairly draw on government benefits, and fundamentally alter the social fabric of America. These native-borns fear that non-Englishspeaking foreigners who move to the United States—legally or illegally—and do not integrate into mainstream social and political life are threatening to erase our culture’s distinctive character.

    Part of this anxiety is rooted in ethnocentrism and group animus. People tend not to like others who look or act differently from themselves. As Donald Kinder and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO COMPETING POLICY PRINCIPLES
    (pp. 21-40)

    IMMIGRATION IS A COMPLICATED POLICY issue because of the competing principles the United States seeks to maximize: international competitiveness, economic growth, innovation, family integration, social justice, and border security, among other things. From standpoints of both financial resources and political priorities, it is hard to devise policies that maximize all of these objectives.

    Budgetwise, if the government spends billions constructing a fence along the Mexican border, authorities will not have adequate resources to promote faster administrative processing of visa applications or to provide legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation hearings. Politically, it is difficult to build coalitions that maximize all...

  7. CHAPTER THREE OVERCOMING PARTICULARISTIC POLITICS
    (pp. 41-64)

    IMMIGRATION IS A TOPIC THAT arouses strong passions in nearly every part of the political spectrum. Because the issue involves questions of culture, language, economics, social mores, and national character, debates over competing policy objectives are rarely calm and rational. Expressions of fear, anxiety, and anger are more typical than reason-based discussions.¹ People commonly question motives, disparage opponents, and make jingoistic arguments when analyzing the nature of immigration policy in the United States, making it hard to address political controversies meaningfully. A substantial number of Americans are opposed to immigration and to government policies that are sympathetic to newcomers.²

    Even...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR PROBLEMATIC MEDIA COVERAGE
    (pp. 65-86)

    THE NEWS MEDIA AND OPINION writers have always played an important role in American politics. Because most people do not have direct, personal experience with specific policy issues, journalists serve as crucial intermediary gatekeepers, agenda setters, and problem definers. Through their role in filtering the political news and putting daily events into a particular narrative, reporters and editors, columnists, talk show hosts, bloggers, and other opinion leaders affect how Americans see specific political developments and what they think is important for the country as a whole. On occasion, a movie or television show can also move public opinion in one...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION
    (pp. 87-106)

    EMOTION IS NOT A NEW feature in American politics.¹ At various times in U.S. history, citizen resentments have built to such a pitch that voters have forced action on certain issues. For example, anger over high property taxes in California led to the 1978 Proposition 13 revolt, where voters imposed tough restrictions on future state tax hikes.² More recently, national attention has been focused on citizen “tea parties” protesting federal government proposals for health care, government spending, and failure to deal with high budget deficits.

    Sometimes, anxiety has arisen about particular racial or ethnic groups.³ Vigilante violence during the Reconstruction...

  10. CHAPTER SIX POROUS BORDERS AND UNEQUAL JUSTICE
    (pp. 107-125)

    IMPLEMENTATION IS A VITAL PART of any public policy. Regardless of how legislators make decisions, issues always arise over policy administration and the substantive impact of policy in specific areas.¹ Appointed officials have discretion to flesh out the broad principles adopted by Congress with specific regulations and instructions for implementing them. These “street-level bureaucrats” typically have considerable authority to determine how to apply various laws to individual cases.² Within the limits set by the legislation, they typically can redirect money, reorient programs, grant exceptions, or apply federal principles in novel sorts of ways.

    Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky make these...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN THE EINSTEIN PRINCIPLE
    (pp. 126-154)

    IN THIS BOOK I HAVE argued that Americans and their policymakers need to rethink immigration policy. The centerpiece of the current policy is family reunification. Nearly two-thirds of the 1 million visas granted each year are set aside to reconnect family members.¹ That is a noble and virtuous goal, but such a strong emphasis on one policy objective slights competing principles such as economic development, international competitiveness, and technological innovation. Immigration policy is seriously out of balance and needs fundamental change if it is to achieve important national objectives.

    Only in the past forty years has family unification been elevated...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 155-174)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 175-182)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)