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WSJ: How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Turbocharge U.S. Trade

December 23, 2011

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contained an opinion piece explaining how immigrants directly benefit the U.S. economy.

If America wants to tap the gusher of innovation that is starting to come out of emerging markets, it has to keep letting in immigrants from those places. Some will stay; others will eventually go home. Either way, they will keep ideas flowing through America. A study by the Kauffman Foundation found that two-thirds of Indian entrepreneurs who move back to India from America maintain at least monthly contact with their former colleagues in the U.S. Chinese returnees are nearly as chatty.

Immigrants also provide America with an army of unofficial diplomats, recruiters and deal-brokers. When they visit the countries where they were born, they may grumble about American foreign policy. But they also talk about their well-paid jobs, their amiable neighbors, and the vibrancy of American churches.

And immigrants often absorb and spread American ideals. The opening of the Indian economy in 1991 was partly inspired by the success of Indians living abroad. (During the closed era, a lawmaker cheekily asked Indira Gandhi: “Can the prime minister explain why Indians seem to thrive economically under every government in the world except her own?”)

Today, students from China who come to America cannot help noticing that the air is cleaner, the people are richer, and the political system allows people to choose a new government without bloodshed.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign-educated Chinese, known as “sea turtles,” have moved back to China in the past decade. They are the elite—bright enough to win scholarships or rich enough to pay American college fees. Many are now highly influential. They dominate the Chinese technology industry, Chinese universities and the think tanks that advise the government in Beijing. They are also steadily rising within the Communist Party.

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