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Immigration in the Spotlight…or is it Education?

SAN JOSE, CA – Today, and recently, there has been a big focus on the immigration debate in the U.S….as well as in other developed nations. Since I’m in the U.S. and a little closer to this debate, I’m going to focus my thoughts on this side of the ponds…and less on amnesty or a worker program then on the highly-skilled and highly-educated workers that are needed to motor economies.In this “world is flat” or world 2.0 era, if you will, the jobs will go to where the best educated workforces are – and (commercial) Cisco provides the technologies that allows for anywhere, anytime, seamless communications. The U.S. still has great universities that attract the best talent around the world. Noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist and education advocate John Doerr has stated that he thinks that all advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math (the so-called STEM majors) obtained by foreign nationals should have a green card attached to them. Those U.S. educated workers, he argues, should be encouraged to stay and contribute to the U.S. economy rather than being forced to go back to their home countries – where, by the way, there are more and more opportunities for them.Educating the best and the brightest from the around the world and encouraging them to stay is not the full answer, of course. We also have to focus on encouraging our own students to study math and science disciplines. In the 60’s, of course, it was Sputnik and the space race that encouraged a generation of scientists. Maybe those were simpler times and in a pre-MTV world it was a little easier to get the attention of the youth. What is the answer, you say? There aren’t easy answers. We’re going to have to follow the ol’ “think globally, act locally” approach on this one. Cisco is doing its part with our Networking Academies as well as our 21st Century Schools project in Mississippi and Louisiana. Everybody can do more, though, of course.I don’t want to imply that the amnesty and worker issues that are being addressed in the current immigration debate are not important enough to comment on…the jobs filled by immigrants do contribute to our economy. However, and I’m sure I’ll get this stat wrong, but, I have heard that ONE engineering job, in turns, creates SIX other jobs, so that is where my focus has been.For more thoughtful insight on this issue, please go to Yahoo or Google or MSN or your other favorite search engine and search “Chris Nordlinger” and “education.” He frames the issue more eloquently than I, as well as offers some creative solutions.I also blogged on this issue in January after a meeting with Senator George Allen (R-VA) and you can read that post here:

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  1. The Pinar del Rio SolutionPresident George Bush and his supporters on the far right anguish needlessly about the millions of undocumented workers in the United States. Why? Because the Pinar del Rio solution is close at hand.Briefly stated, this policy provides that the hundreds of workers that are regularly swept up in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) merely need to state that they are refugees from Cuba, regardless of their actual country of origin. More specifically, the undocumented workers should state that they worked in the tobacco fields of Pinar del Rio, and that they got to the United States in refugee boat lifts.As Cuban refugees who have actually landed on U. S. soil, the undocumented workers will be entitled to stay. ICE officials who dispute the Pinar del Rio story will be in the difficult position of proving a negative—that is, they will have to prove that the workers did not come from Cuba, but rather from some other country. But which one? Mexico? Guatemala? El Salvador? Honduras? Canada?As long as the undocumented workers stick to their story, the worst that can happen is that they will be placed in detention centers. But as the ranks of detainees swell by thousands every week, the detention centers will increasingly resemble concentration camps. Even George Bush, with his limited knowledge of history, knows we don’t want to go down that road.So relax. The undocumented workers are not actually “lawbreakers,” regardless of what members of the far right say. The workers are here merely to earn money for their families. By the way, it might be a good idea for you to brush up on your Spanish.

  2. This is nice comment, Mr. Nordlinger

  3. Not sure you need to reference that Christopher Nordlinger fellow. You presented an articulate summation of the issues involved, Mr. Earnhardt. And they're finally receiving solid attention from Washington. I know what Cisco can deliver--Academies, Mississippi Ed, etc., but it will be interesting to see whether the Federal follow-through in dollars spent and results delivered match the rhetoric. As to your point about U.S. universities having the ability to attract the best talent, I think you're overwhelmingly right. However, the inroads that even the Europeans made after 9-11 in attracting Asians and Europeans to attend science and engineering programs in their institutions were significant. We've made some headway back as we've found some middle ground on our efforts to attract eal"" foreign students into our programs. However, as you may know the Chinese and Indians have greatly expanded their programs in these areas in the last decade. U.S. universities are feeling the pressure of a flat world and are opening campuses in Asia to expand their brand and make sure they capture some of those tuition fees that have wandered elsewhere. There are many other areas of the 21st Century economy where the Flat-Worldness cannot even be imagined yet. Let's hope we're addressing this issue seriously now."