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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/03/AR2006040301621_pf.html

To Become an American

By Fareed Zakaria

Tuesday, April 4, 2006; A23

Seven years ago, when I was visiting Germany, I met with an official who explained to me that the country had a foolproof solution to its economic woes. Watching the U.S. economy soar during the 1990s, the Germans had decided that they, too, needed to go the high-technology route. But how? In the late '90s, the answer seemed obvious: Indians. After all, Indian entrepreneurs accounted for one of every three Silicon Valley start-ups. So the German government decided that it would lure Indians to Germany just as America does: by offering green cards. Officials created something called the German Green Card and announced that they would issue 20,000 in the first year. Naturally, they expected that tens of thousands more Indians would soon be begging to come, and perhaps the quotas would have to be increased. But the program was a flop. A year later barely half of the 20,000 cards had been issued. After a few extensions, the program was abolished.

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??? Being real here, I don't see us attracting many software engineers from Mexico.

I do. Every other month when one of the professional organizations I belong to meets. And besides, if it's not the immigrants themeselves it's their kids.

Where do you really live?

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One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?

Sadly, most do

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I was about to post this. The cool thing is that Zakaria has definitely thought this one out pretty carefully, because he mentioned these issues in passing to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show last week.

The German Green Card was misnamed, I argued, because it never, under any circumstances, translated into German citizenship. The U.S. green card, by contrast, is an almost automatic path to becoming American (after five years and a clean record).

The official dismissed my objection, saying that there was no way Germany was going to offer these people citizenship. "We need young tech workers," he said. "That's what this program is all about." So Germany was asking bright young professionals to leave their country, culture and families; move thousands of miles away; learn a new language; and work in a strange land -- but without any prospect of ever being part of their new home. Germany was sending a signal, one that was accurately received in India and other countries, and also by Germany's own immigrant community.

Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies.

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Not disagreeing with anything in particular, but just clarifying a few issues:

(1) Indian software developers typically arrive on one of the H-1 visa types. This gives up to six years temporary residence and is tied to a specific job and employer. To get a green card, the visa holders need to persuade their employer that they want to make the position permanent. This is not a trivial exercise and costs thousands of dollars for the applicant AND a willing sponsoring employer. Thus Indians arriving in the USA are not by any means being offered citizenship

(2) The reason that Indians found America more attractive than Germany likely include:

a. the language (most technical education is in English) while most German business do not use English as their primary language.

b. history ... large American techcnology companies have been 'importing' Indian talent for years. During the late 90's the number of H-1 visas being issued was increased temporarily to something close to 200,000 per year. It has now fallen back to a modest 65,000 per year but there is so much history of Indians coming to America, working for great companies, making very good money, that it is seen as an almost perfect career path whether they end up back in India or manage to get permanent residency.

c. Outside of Germany's policy on treatment of guest workers being poor, there ae many stories of right wing groups in Germany being less than sympathetic to outsiders who look different.

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Not disagreeing with anything in particular, but just clarifying a few issues:

(1) Indian software developers typically arrive on one of the H-1 visa types. This gives up to six years temporary residence and is tied to a specific job and employer. To get a green card, the visa holders need to persuade their employer that they want to make the position permanent. This is not a trivial exercise and costs thousands of dollars for the applicant AND a willing sponsoring employer. Thus Indians arriving in the USA are not by any means being offered citizenship

(2) The reason that Indians found America more attractive than Germany likely include:

a. the language (most technical education is in English) while most German business do not use English as their primary language.

b. history ... large American techcnology companies have been 'importing' Indian talent for years. During the late 90's the number of H-1 visas being issued was increased temporarily to something close to 200,000 per year. It has now fallen back to a modest 65,000 per year but there is so much history of Indians coming to America, working for great companies, making very good money, that it is seen as an almost perfect career path whether they end up back in India or manage to get permanent residency.

c. Outside of Germany's policy on treatment of guest workers being poor, there ae many stories of right wing groups in Germany being less than sympathetic to outsiders who look different.

Interesting points.

Damn righties ;).

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Not disagreeing with anything in particular, but just clarifying a few issues:

(1) Indian software developers typically arrive on one of the H-1 visa types. This gives up to six years temporary residence and is tied to a specific job and employer. To get a green card, the visa holders need to persuade their employer that they want to make the position permanent. This is not a trivial exercise and costs thousands of dollars for the applicant AND a willing sponsoring employer. Thus Indians arriving in the USA are not by any means being offered citizenship

While ostensibly true, I would be surprised if there is any significant number of Indian H-1 visa holders that wanted to stay in the US but were unable to procure green cards. My parents, although not Indian, made the H-1 to PR transition this way, and it was not very difficult. One thing about so many Indians starting companies in Silicon Valley is that those companies are very willing to help other Indians obtain immigration status. Six years is a very long time, and anyone already in the United States and making the income of an engineer should be able to get a green card in that time.

(2) The reason that Indians found America more attractive than Germany likely include:

a. the language (most technical education is in English) while most German business do not use English as their primary language.

b. history ... large American techcnology companies have been 'importing' Indian talent for years. During the late 90's the number of H-1 visas being issued was increased temporarily to something close to 200,000 per year. It has now fallen back to a modest 65,000 per year but there is so much history of Indians coming to America, working for great companies, making very good money, that it is seen as an almost perfect career path whether they end up back in India or manage to get permanent residency.

c. Outside of Germany's policy on treatment of guest workers being poor, there ae many stories of right wing groups in Germany being less than sympathetic to outsiders who look different.

You are very right that America has an immigrant-friendly history that gives us an advantage, but I think that's part of Zakaria's point. America does immigration right, and Europe does it wrong.

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