Sunday, July 8, 2007

Brain Drain: From Here to Iraq

Iraq is seeing a major attack of "brain drain". Many of its skilled professionals have left, leaving hospitals critically understaffed in a country where unbelievable carnage happens everyday. This same scenario is true for Haiti where there is a critical need for doctors, lawyers and other skilled professionals. Unfortunately, most Haitian doctors are not staffing hospitals in Haiti but are practicing in the five boroughs of New York. The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad has chapters in Chicago, Montreal, New York, Florida, New Jersey, St. Louis and in Washington/Baltimore. Ironically at their 34th annual convention in Naples, Florida, later this month, they will be grappling with the issue of "Addressing Healthcare Disparities in Underserved Communities".

The coup de grace blow to a country in conflict is when its intelligentsia and talent are forced to flee. Riddle me this -- what country has benefited the most from the conflicts that have raged in parts of the world where the U.S. government directly or indirectly invaded, subverted and intervened? The U.S. is the destination of choice for most of the world's immigrants and has benefited more than any other country from "brain drain" in skilled labor gains. Of course the continent most depleted is Africa where conflicts occur most frequently.

What are the reasons for migration to the United States?
"In the late 1800s, people in many parts of the world decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States. Fleeing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine, many came to the U. S. because it was perceived as the land of economic opportunity. Others came seeking personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. With hope for a brighter future, nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1900. During the 1870s and 1880s, the vast majority of these people were from Germany, Ireland, and England--the principal sources of immigration before the Civil War. That would change drastically in the next three decades."
The so-called "open immigration policy" of the United States was revised after World War II because one of the fortuitous fall-outs of war and conflict (for the U.S. anyway) are refugees. Unfortunately, very often the U.S. government has refused to take responsibility for the aftermath of the chaos that is unleashed with intervention, subversion and invasion of a country.
The outbreak of World War I reduced immigration from Europe, but mass immigration resumed upon the war's conclusion, and Congress responded with a new immigration policy: the national-origins quota system, passed in 1921 and revised in 1924. Immigration was limited by assigning each nationality a quota based on its representation in past U.S. census figures. Also in 1924, Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol within the Immigration Service.
Immigration was down to zero after the depression but perked up after World War II. The increase after the war was not enough for the U.S. government which saw a need for "skilled labor" and so in 1965 a "preference" law was instituted that replaced "national origin" to attract these desirable immigrants.

The period of the 1990s was the height of immigration to the U.S. but when you look at a list of U.S. interventions you see the potential for the U.S. borders to be overwhelmed by fleeing immigrants from all parts of the world. The xenophobia that occurs when one group fears and loathes another one is universal. The immigration issue has become a hot button issue in the U.S. just as it was during the period of 1820-1996 when the majority of immigrants were from Europe.

Makes you wonder, what will the U.S. government have to do to attract more "skilled labor"? Invade Iran?

If Americans want to stop immigration of "undesirables", perhaps they should stop intervening in other countries.

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