Migrant Technology Workers

Today, Slashdot is running an article on immigration. The discussion thread has some interesting notes (though, alas, the signal-to-noise seems to be noticeably lower than usual when reading at +5 — this seems to be quite a politically charged topic).

It reminds me of something that happened two years ago at the ACCU conference. I was on a panel that seemed innocuous enough, until one of the questions raised was immigration: ‘Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing that people come from other countries in order to do high-tech work here?’ I’d been peripherally aware that this debate was going on in America, was interested to observe that it was also going on in the UK, and was quite surprised at what a hot button it had become. There sure was a lot of discussion with fervent opinions in both directions.

I don’t have an opinion either way on the issue, but I just thought I’d share an interesting (I hope) observation about perspective, as someone who is from Canada and now lives and works in the United States and thinks well of both places and the people in them: It’s interesting to me that in America (as in Canada), I have seen concerns like this about immigration and people coming from elsewhere to perform domestic professional jobs. I can understand the feelings behind those concerns. On the other hand, during the 35 years I lived in Canada I saw equally frequent and vocal concerns about emigration and the "brain drain" of professionals leaving Canada for the United States — notably doctors and high-tech folks, but we did lose a lot of actors too. And Bill Shatner. (Just kidding; I like Shatner.)

Isn’t it interesting that when a skilled person moves, some people in the country they’re joining are worried that they’re arriving, and some people in the country that they’re leaving are equally worried that they’re going?

Just a thought. Back on Slashdot, though, my favorite comment was:

"Mr Gates did mention that 640K skilled immigrants ought to be enough for USA."

Maybe till January 18/19, 2038. :-)