The Safety Country

About half my graduating class came to graduate school in the United States. Most of them stayed, but there's been a steady trickle of classmates going back to India. With a 8.5% growth rate, there is a pretty good chance of striking it rich there. With major companies opening research centers in India, the work can be challenging. The chance to be closer to family is quite appealing. So, over the years, about half of those who came here to study have gone back.

This week, the next stage of the story started. One of my classmates sent us an email telling us that he is leaving for Bangalore. What makes him different from the people who went back to India in years past? He waited until he became a U.S. citizen. If things don't work out in India, he figured that he could always come back.

Something that much of the immigration debate in the US misses is that immigrants are rational people who exercise their choices.  So, paradoxes abound. For example, the tougher border enforcement gets, illegal immigrants who make it past the border are less and less likely to go back. They don't want to run the gauntlet again. The other paradox is illustrated by my classmate: the easier you make it for highly skilled immigrants to become citizens, the greater the chance that they will leave to try opportunities in their native lands.

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