Where It All Began

By Robert Kyser
Volume 7, Number 3 (Spring 1997)
Issue theme: "Restraining the American brain"

As the preceding articles in this feature section show, there is room for anger in the specialty fields of math and science. This anger and frustration is evident on the internet where conversations about employment opportunities and the impact of immigration abound. According to information available there, in the twenty years between 1959 and 1979 - permanent visas were granted to 7,093 university professors. In only the three years 1992-1994 that number jumped to 8,563.

Some of the history that has led to the current sad state of affairs is contained in a letter written by then-President of both of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the University of Pennsylvania, John W. Oswald, to fellow Penn-sylvanian, Rep. Joshua Eilberg (see box below). Eilberg chaired the House Subcommittee on Immigration at a time when, in the wake of passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, Congress was trying to extend the preference structure and the 20,000-immigrants-per-country ceilings governing immi-gration from the Eastern Hemisphere to cover the Western Hemisphere. Eilberg was being lobbied by Oswald during what one contributor to the internet has characterized as "a period of deadlock in negotiations between the House and Senate Immigration Sub-committees" during which Eilberg could insert a parenthetical clause into the proposed amendment to Title 8 of the U.S. Code allowing universities the unique handling of sub-specialities as an end-run around Department of Labor categories

(14) Aliens seeking to enter the United States, for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor, unless the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General that (A) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified (or equally qualified in the case of aliens who are members of the teaching profession or who have exceptional ability in the sciences or the arts), and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and (B) the employment of such aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of the workers in the United States similarly employed. (Title 8, section 1182, U.S.C. 1976) [emphasis added].

The interesting story of how Eilberg got his bill through the House can be read at http // www.mit.edu 8001/afs/athena.mit.edu/user/e/r/erw/Public/Pandora.html. The important change for America's scientists and mathematicians is the result of what was intended to be a minor loophole through which one can now drive a truck filled with applicants. Total immigration by way of permanent visas granted in 1976 was 502,289, of which 267 were college or university teachers; in 1993, 3,452 of the 880,014 immigrants granted permanent visas were college or university teachers - an increase of 1193 percent. Could so many applicants possibly all be eligible for the "Einstein exemption"? The situation on the nation's campuses has become so extreme that Dr. David Goodstein, Vice-Provost of California Technical Institute, himself a physicist as well as administrator, has commented

The American taxpayer (both state and federal) is supporting extremely expensive research at universities whose main educational purpose is to train students from abroad. When these students finish their educations, they either stay here, taking relatively high-paying jobs that could have gone to Americans, or they go home, taking our knowledge and technology with them. ...Congress and the public don't seem yet to have noticed that, while largely ignoring our own students, we are putting our money and our best talent into training our economic competitors. Just wait until this one hits the fan. ["Scientific Ph.D. Problems" by Dr. David Goodstein, American Scholar, Vol. 62, Spring 1993, pp.215-220.]

Rep. Eilberg later pleaded guilty to federal conflict of interest charges amid allegations of peddling influence to higher education at a university in Philadelphia. TSC