Last June, The Wall Street Journal described the backlog of 809,000 legal U.S. immigrants seeking a “green card” to work, with an average waiting time of four years. These are citizens-in-waiting, not the 12-18 million border scofflaws who usually do not pay taxes, are a drain on social services paid by taxpayers and are disproportionately responsible for crime and overflowing jail cells across America.

....This all became personal when a friend asked for help to find why the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Name Check Unit, had not cleared his name after over four years, as that part of the FBI is required by law to perform these checks and report to Immigration Service. It is laughable this is done at all because the FBI cannot learn anything unless the foreign government has information to report about criminal activities and chooses to release the data. I found the true reason why the FBI is dragging their feet. They do not want to perform this mundane assignment – a menial task they feel beneath their dignity and status.

It turns out that the FBI is dysfunctional and arrogant about this investigative work and totally unresponsive to the public and even Congressional inquiries. Name Check Unit employees Michael Cannon and Sandra Bunker refused calls. Sarah Ziegler, FBI Ombudsman, said through the office secretary that “the Ombudsman is concerned with FBI internal matters,” ignoring the very purpose for existence of that office. So I began a campaign that I urge you to join by discussing this with your member of Congress – to use the “stick” of withholding Congressional funds for whatever the FBI's current dream unless the “carrot” of performance is satisfied. This FBI situation is not healthy for America and is affecting industry. Here is how and why.

National economic prosperity depends now more than ever on innovation, and that comes from people with skills and education. This is especially true for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) people where “talent has become the world's most sought after commodity,” according to The Economist. It is the flow and stock of talented immigrants that is a key driver for our successful economy, and it is what Dr. David Hart of George Mason University calls in his study on these issues “brain circulations.” Here are two snapshots of the subject: 29% of Silicon Valley firms formed between 1995-1998 were begun by immigrants from China and India, and foreign-born STEM personnel are over-represented as authors of scientific papers and patents as related to their portion of population. Dr. Hart’s study found that the U.S. has 8 million foreign-born STEM people (under 3% of the technical workforce) but ranks well below peer industrial nations such as Australia (8%), Canada (7%) and New Zealand (4.5%). In 2005, the U.S. permanently admitted over 1 million legal immigrants, but only 67,000 were highly skilled. Meanwhile, Canada received 56,000, Australia 20,000 and New Zealand 10,000. Major industrial peers concentrate on bringing in highly skilled workers on a permanent basis while the U.S. focus is on the temporary worker. Furthermore, U.S. attraction for foreign students is deteriorating, declining 70,000 annually since 2001, a decline of 25% over historical college enrollments. And, unfortunately, the U.S. has no formal transition process for foreign students to move into the working population and enter the citizenship track.

The trend is quite clear. Countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand consider highly skilled immigrants as valuable contributors to their economy and society, but the U.S. and England do not put priority on tilting the immigrant applicants toward the talented. The U.S. also has not structured or maintained a consistent or coherent policy on these matters. In areas where employers sponsor an immigrant for employment-preference “green cards” (about 140,000 available yearly), there is intense competition for the H-1B visa, which is still a temporary work permit. Fortunately for the U.S., nations such as France, Germany and Japan view highly skilled immigrants as threats to native workers. Without these national stupidities, America's problems could be far worse.

It is important that the U.S. be realistic about how the immigration process operates and what is in the national interest as policy. American politicians who fondled 780 bills on immigration subjects in the last Congress – with 16 containing topics of education and skills (none of any meaningful significance or passage) – should think strategically about global human-capital development. America can only survive and prosper with good people, and those numbers seem to be declining. IH