America's loss is world's gain?

A new research paper suggests immigrants are leaving the US to return to their home countries -- mainly because of the job market rather than restrictive immigration policies. The Kauffman Foundation funded the research, and you can download the report here. One of the researchers also has an article in today's Businessweek. He argues that "we may not need all these workers during the deepening recession. But we will need them to help us recover from it."

Vivek Wadhwa says the immigrants who've left are unlikely to return. They are finding decent opportunities in their home countries. They miss their family and friends. And the quality of life in places like India and China is improving.

Wadhwa trots out the usual argument that "skilled" immigrants started companies like Google and Yahoo and make up a significant chunk of the hi-tech labor force. He says we will need that know-how to rebuild the US economy. That may be true, but I wonder how many Americans are thinking that way, given the economic climate.

What do you think? Is it a good thing that fewer skilled immigrants are in the job market, or is losing them going to put us at a competitive disadvantage in the recovery?

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