The New York Times has run three letters today in response to Michael Lind’s and my recent op-ed, “How to Lose the Brain Race.”
My friend Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a new blogger at “Beat the Press“, sent one of the three published responses.
Senator Dianne Feinstein had one of the others.
The Senator’s response is fascinating because while she asserts that she is suggesting a “balanced” approach to immigration policy — she simply reasserts what her two provisions do: first allows a large stream of agricultural workers and secondly, doubles the fee for foreign students applying to American universities.
Here is the bulk of Senator Feinstein’s response:
Steven Clemons and Michael Lind argue that my additions to the immigration reform package “sent a message to the rest of the world: send us your brawn, not your brains.”
In truth, I support a balanced policy — including an agriculture workers program and increasing numbers of high-tech visas.
The agriculture industry cannot today hire the American workers it needs. That’s why I sponsored a bipartisan amendment providing undocumented agriculture workers with an opportunity to earn a green card if they continue working in agriculture. This program would provide them an opportunity to come out of the shadows.
I also support a program to allow foreign students to work in science, technology, engineering and math. But I believe we should ensure that American students get the training they need to compete in these fields.
So I proposed increasing the cost of the visas, with the funds going for scholarships for American students.
Mr. Clemons and Mr. Lind suggest a choice must be made between agriculture workers and foreign students. They are wrong. This is not an either-or issue.
The fact is that foreign student applications to American universities are far below pre-9/11 levels. The fees involved are not the only deterrents — but the complicated and intimidating student visa interview process for students from non-visa waivered nations is unpredictable and frequently demeaning.
Doubling these fees, which the Senator argues will help fund American scholarships, only aggravates America’s image problem in the world.
I’m sure that Senator Feinstein does believe that her approach is balanced — but it’s not.
A balanced policy would involve doing much more to remove the speed bumps to smart, balanced people coming to this country and either eventually legally immigrating or going back to their own countries with some of America’s DNA.
If the Senator would like to discuss what that sort of policy might entail, I would be happy to work with her — as I think that sort of vision is far more consistent with the Senator’s work in the past than this fee-doubling scheme which helps tell foreign students we don’t want them.
— Steve Clemons