In President Obama’s State of the Union address, he said:
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. (Applause.) I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.
When I heard this statement, I was surprised and a bit confused. I’m going to leave the issue of children of undocumented and illegal immigrants to someone with more expertise in the area, but I do find it odd to propose that we should keep foreign nationals here in America to work in our labs, research facilities, and other professional roles, when so many countries overseas continue to experience “brain drains” where a number of highly educated men and women chose to seek employment outside of their home nation.
I’m all for bright, intelligent young men and women from other countries coming to the US to attend one of our colleges or universities, particularly if they don’t have similar education opportunities in their home countries. The diverse life experiences and cultural traditions foreign students bring enrich the experiences of other students – some of the most interesting and insightful experiences I had in college were through interactions with international students. But, after graduation day has passed, I think we should be supportive of those who want to return home and use their education to improve their own country, building local capacity in a way that may be a bit different that the typical aid model. Otherwise, I think we’re being a bit selfish.