America's First Brain Drain

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The legal immigration system - the same one that has kept me in limbo for a quarter of a century - is reaching a breaking point. Skilled immigrants are returning home to the more fertile opportunities in China and India because America makes it almost impossible for talented immigrants to move here:

"What was a trickle has become a flood," says Duke University's Vivek Wadhwa, who studies reverse immigration. Wadhwa projects that in the next five years, 100,000 immigrants will go back to India and 100,000 to China, countries that have had rapid economic growth. "For the first time in American history, we are experiencing the brain drain that other countries experienced," he says.

Multinational companies that belong to the American Council on International Personnel tell Executive Director Lynn Shotwell that skilled immigrants are discouraged by the immigration process, she says. Some can wait up to a decade for permanent residency, she says. "They're frustrated with having an uncertain immigration status," she says. "They're giving up."

Try two decades. And here's a simple example of the bureaucratic nightmare: the HIV ban was repealed in July 2008. It is still in force. No one knows for sure when it will actually be lifted. The federal government is simply paralyzed with red tape.

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