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eyes on the U.S.

Latin America Also Pays For A Broken U.S. Visa System

Restrictive U.S. entry requirements deprive talented people of work opportunity but also drag down the competitiveness across the Americas.

In Washington, advocating for immigrant rights
In Washington, advocating for immigrant rights
*Jerry Haar


MIAMI — The United States has created a visa system that honors family reunification, a noble goal, but that discriminates against highly qualified people with no relatives in the country.

My Honduran housekeeper, an American citizen, can bring her ailing, elderly aunt to live in the U.S. without a problem. But a Brazilian scientist with a double PhD in computer science and biomedical engineering and four patents — but no relatives in the U.S. – may have to wait years for an immigrant visa.

Our complicated and confusing immigration system is nonsensical, irrational and absurd. It undermines our economic competitiveness as illustrated by the U.S. falling to fourth place in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report and to fifth in the Global Innovation Index. It also partly explains our students’ poor results in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the fact that we have fewer graduates in these areas.

Like the companies that outsource part of their operations abroad to increase productivity, the U.S. must “internalize,” or produce more at home. Hiring foreign talent is the fastest and surest way to do this.

Foreign scientists, engineers and enterpreneurs contribute immensely to our economy. Studies show that a 1% increase in STEM-specialized employees in the workforce raises the wages of university graduates by 4 to 6%.

Between 1995 and 2005, immigrant entrepreneurs founded or co-founded more than 25% of all tech and engineering firms in the United States, creating 450,000 jobs. More than half the start-ups were founded by immigrants.

Congress will no doubt start debating immigration laws this year. Expansion of the H-1B non-immigrant visa, which allows companies to temporarily employ foreign workers, should be a priority, as it helps stimulate innovation, patent applications and employment. Hopefully, the White House and Congress will reach an agreement on that.

Meanwhile, countries such as Canada, Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom are attracting foreign talents and investors with work visas and financial incentives.

Latin America should regard U.S. immigration policies with worry. They effectively block access to opportunities for many talented scientists to improve themselves. And given that many Latin American scientists and engineers return to their countries to begin businesses or transfer their knowledge to local partners and collaborators, the United States’ restrictive policies diminish regional competitiveness in areas of intellectual property.

Congress must act immediately to reform the visa system and boost competitiveness — not just in the U.S., but in the Americas.

*Jerry Haar is associate dean and management professor at the School of Business Administration at Florida International University in Miami.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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