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Bloggings: February 21, 2008

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

February 19, 2008


Pinkava Czech-native Jan Pinkava is nominated for an Oscar this year along with two colleagues for Best Original Screenplay for their work on the wonderful Pixar/Disney film Ratatouille. I loved this movie and continue to be impressed by the wonderful movies coming out of this studio.

Pinkava emigrated to the UK at a young age and won a BBC young filmmaker's contest. He went on to study computer science in college and then combined his technical skills with his love of film to become a master of computer animation. Pixar recruited Pinkava in 1993 and he began work on Ratatouille in 2000. Ratatouille

February 18, 2008

The New York Times takes USCIS to task for the recent announcement that it will likely take three years or more to approve citizenship applications filed in the last year:

You can tell a country’s priorities from what works and where the money goes. With billions for border and workplace enforcement, the government has been rushing to impose ever more sophisticated and intrusive means to keep immigrants out. Yet it continues to tolerate a creaky, corrosively inept system for welcoming immigrants in — an underperforming bureaucracy that takes their money and makes them wait, with a chronic indolence that is just another form of hostility.


Daylewis The Oscars are being handed out next Sunday night so it's a good week to look at the contributions immigrants are making in the film industry. Each day this week, I'll be honoring a different immigrant nominated for an Academy Award.

I'll start today with the brilliant actor Daniel Day-Lewis. I remember seeing him for the first time twenty years ago in the film adaptation of a favorite book of mine, Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. A year later he earned an Oscar for his role playing the arm-less artist Christy Brown in My Left Foot. In 1993, he was nominated again for his portrayal of Gerry Conlan in In the Name of the Father. If you've never seen that movie, I have to strongly recommend you rent it. It's got a great soundtrack as well I still listen to from time to time. Nine years later, he received his third nomination playing the very scary Bill Cutting in The Gangs of New York. And this year he is up for nomination number four for the role of Daniel Plainview in There Will be Blood.

One interesting tidbit I found in my research on Day-Lewis. He's married to Rebecca Miller, the American film director and daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller, one of the 20th century's most gifted writers. Miller wrote Death of a Salesman as well as The Crucible. Day-Lewis acted in the 1996 film version of The Crucible and was there that he met Arthur Miller and his daughter.


The National Science Foundation, a US government agency, has released its "Science and Engineering Indicators 2008" report and the NSF has issued a pretty strong warning regarding protectionism in the IT labor market:

The globalization of the S&E [SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING] labor force continues to
increase as the location of S&E employment becomes more
internationally diverse and S&E workers become more internationally
mobile. These trends reinforce each other as R&D
spending and business investment cross national borders in
search of available talent, as talented people cross borders in
search of interesting and lucrative work, and as employers
recruit and move employees internationally. Although these
trends appear most strong in the high-profile international
competition for IT workers, they affect every S&T area.

The rate of growth of the S&E labor force may decline
rapidly over the next decade because of the aging of individuals
with S&E educations, as the number of individuals
with S&E degrees reaching traditional retirement ages is expected
to triple. If this slowdown occurs, the rapid growth in
R&D employment and spending that the United States has
experienced since World War II may not be sustainable.

The growth rate of the S&E labor force would also be
significantly reduced if the United States becomes less successful
in the increasing international competition for immigrant
and temporary nonimmigrant scientists and engineers.
Many countries are actively reducing barriers to high-skilled
immigrants entering their labor markets at the same time that
entry into the United States is becoming somewhat more difficult.
Despite this, many recent statistics suggest that the
United States is still an attractive destination for many foreign
scientists and engineers.

Slowing of the S&E labor force growth would be a fundamental
change for the U.S. economy, possibly affecting
both technological change and economic growth. Some researchers
have raised concerns that other factors may even
accentuate the trend (NSB 2003). Any sustained drop in
S&E degree production would produce not only a slowing
of labor-force growth, but also a long-term decline in the
S&E labor force.

The report had a lot of interesting statistical data on the H-1B program and also compared our numbers to other countries. Surprisingly, we get proportionately fewer highly skilled immigrants than many other countries. Japan, for example, has a reputation for being very insular, but has a lot more skilled immigrants entering than I thought:

In 2003, 268,045 workers entered Japan in high-skilled
temporary visa categories, a 93% increase compared with
1992 (figure 3-57). For comparison purposes, this equals
half of the number of Japanese university graduates entering
the labor force each year and is more than the number
entering the United States in roughly similar categories
(H-1B, L-1, TN, O-1, O-2) (Fuess 2001).

The report tells us something most of us already know - that H-1Bs are super-smart:

In FY 2006, 57% of new H-1B visa
recipients had advanced degrees, including 41% with master’s
degrees, 5% with professional degree, and 11% with
doctorates. This degree distribution differs by occupation,
with 87% holding advanced degrees in math and physical
sciences occupations (47% with doctorates) and 89% in life
science occupations (61% with doctorates).
For those with advanced degrees, it may be possible to
infer the proportion without prior U.S. education by examining
the number seeking to be counted against the larger
quota for those with advanced degrees from U.S. schools. In
FY 2006, 59% of doctorate holders, 21% of professional degree
holders, and 52% of master’s degree holders indicated
on their H-1B applications that their degree was from a U.S.
school. This both documents the use of the H-1B visa as a
way for graduates of U.S. schools to continue their careers in
the United States, and the importance of the H-1B in bringing
the foreign educated to the United States.

Finally, I knew India deserves a lot of credit for helping the US maintain its competitive edge,but the data really supports this:

H1-B visa recipients have a diverse set of citizenships, with
a large representation of Indian citizens overall and Chinese citizens
among those holding doctorates (figures 3-63 and 3-64). Across all recipients
of new H-1B visas in FY 2006, 54% were Indian citizens,
followed by 9% for China, and 3% each for Canada,17 South
Korea, and the Philippines. Among the 12,500 doctorate
holders receiving new H-1B visas, 32% were Chinese citizens,
followed by 13% for India, 7% for South Korea, 5% for
Canada, and 3% each for Germany, the United Kingdom, and
Japan. Most doctorate holders coming from countries with
large university systems had low rates of claiming a U.S.
degree, for example, the United Kingdom (21%), Germany
(28%), Canada (29%), France (30%), and Japan (31%). In
contrast, 71% of doctorate holders from China and 59% of
doctorate holders from India claimed advanced U.S. degrees
on their visa applications.


GOP presumptive presidential nominee John McCain has chosen a Latin outreach adviser with strongly pro-immigration leanings and this is drawing the ire of anti-immigration groups around the country. Juan Hernandez is a native Texan, but served as the first American citizen in the cabinet of a Mexican president.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies seems to be pretty riled up over this. He told the Austin American-Statesman:

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that advocates reduced immigration, says that Hernandez is "a flamboyant supporter of open borders."

"He rejects in principle the idea that we should have assimilation and we should have border enforcement," Krikorian said. "McCain has appointed a former foreign government official to do his outreach to American citizens."

Krikorian wrote a column on the subject last month for the conservative National Review online magazine. He said that choosing Hernandez proves that McCain is not serious about border enforcement.

McCain is now saying he's changed his mind on approaching immigration reform and wants an enforcement only approach and then will later consider dealing with the millions of unauthorized immigrants in the country. But one has to wonder whether McCain is trying to have it both ways, appearing to be in favor of a comprehensive immigration solution when he's addressing Hispanics and against it when he's courting nativists in his party.


Leaders of the Mormon, Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Utah are urging legislators in that state to slow down and think about the implications of tough bills focused on illegal immigration being considered in the state legislature.

February 16, 2008

Lest Lou Dobbs think that the Anti-Defamation League doesn't really speak for the country's Jewish community (he called them a joke, after all), the American Jewish Committee is providing them backup. Here is the full text of their press statement:

The American Jewish Committee is urging the heads of major cable television networks to ensure that the background of certain so-called immigration experts appearing on news shows is revealed to the viewing audience.

“It is inappropriate and offensive for major television programs to provide a microphone to individuals and organizations that promote hate, espouse vigilantism, white supremacy, or even violence in the immigration debate,” AJC General Counsel Jeffrey Sinensky wrote in a letter to the heads of CNN, FOX and MSNBC.

“There is no excuse for television talk show hosts and commentators failing to investigate the backgrounds of the people they invite on their shows to speak on the issue of immigration.”

The AJC letter was delivered today to Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide; Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of FOX News Corporation; and Phil Griffin, executive-in-charge of MSNBC. AJC has partnered with the National Council of La Raza and its “We Can Stop the Hate” campaign launched recently to counter the increasing rhetoric on the airwaves that already has caused a rise in hate crimes against Latinos.

AJC pointed out specifically that Lou Dobbs Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and MSNBC News Live offer national platforms to spokespeople who represent known vigilante or hate-promoting groups, including Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox of the Minuteman Project and Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). 

They regularly appear on news programs as anti-immigration "expert commentators" and pundits.  “Rarely is their status as a representative of a vigilante group or one that promotes hate acknowledged or challenged. Rarely do they face anyone with an opposing viewpoint,” said Sinensky.

In addition, the AJC letter noted that spokespeople espousing vigilantism and fear regularly appear on nightly news programs. They often speak in code, calling immigrants "criminals," "an army of invaders," and "diseased"; and children born to immigrants are referred to as "anchor babies."  Many talk show hosts and commentators parrot this hate speech on their broadcasts.

“Hate speech has no legitimate role in the media. History has shown repeatedly that it can be the precursor to violence,” said Sinensky. “Issues such as immigration can be explored legitimately and thoroughly without demonizing an entire group of people.”

AJC, the oldest human relations organization in the US has been a longstanding advocate for fair and open immigration, and a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. 


Robert_plant Robert Plant hardly needs an introduction. The British-born rocker is an icon known for his long career with the band Led Zeppelin and his ensuing solo career over the next three decades. Robert Plant is still a major force in the music scene in this country and was recognized with a Grammy Award this past week. He won in the category of Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for the song “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” from Raising Sand, his album with Bluegrass singer Allison Kraus (a favorite of mine from Nashville). I know Plant makes his primary residence in the UK, but since he regularly works in the US, he presumably has a work visa, permanent residency or US citizenship (the singer's very private personal life makes research on this topic tough).


The Daily Kos, one of the country's most influential liberal blogs, discusses how staking out anti-immigration positions has been a huge disappointment for the GOP and warns the Democrats not to follow suit.


Stephen Dinan, the Washington Times reporter that regularly writes about immigration issues for his newspaper, has published a column discussing my post advising the Democrats to bring back immigration reform this year. I had a separate post advising McCain and the Republicans.

Dinan expresses some doubt:

It's an intriguing scenario, though it doesn't strike me as working out as easily as he puts it. In the first place, McCain has had to shift somewhat, embracing both an enforcement-first position that his own campaign manager says is now the consensus of the party. It would be impossible for McCain to back away from that now.

Second, it wasn't just Republicans that killed the bill. More than a dozen Democratic senators were happy to have a chance to vote against it, and on the House side, plenty of conservative-leaning Democrats will be begging their leaders not to go Siskind's recommended route.

Still, given that McCain has said he still supports the bill he wrote with Sen. Ted Kennedy — yet also says that bill is dead — Democrats must be at least a little tempted to prove him wrong and bring it back, just to see what he does.

I'd just note a couple of things. First, the Democrats may not care that McCain could oppose the bill. If McCain opposes it, then he can be labeled a flip-flopper and it will be a powerful reminder to Hispanics that McCain is not their friend. Presumably, a certain segment of evangelical Christians and far right Republicans will choose not to vote on Election Day. If McCain also can't win the 40% of the Hispanic vote that President Bush secured, he's going to have trouble finding a place to make up for all of those lost votes.

Second, House Democrats have apparently made a major concession over the last few days and appear willing to pursue a five year non-immigrant visa for unauthorized immigrants with no path to a green card or citizenship. In short, no "amnesty" (or at least that would be the argument since some of the antis will treat anything short of permanent exile as unacceptable). This concession could very well be enough to bring along a number of new supporters of the bill.