The country's legacy of greatness was built on the backs of brilliant foreign-born workers. Today, the United States must admit more high-skilled immigrants.
In 1939, four physicists wrote a letter to the president of the United States, alerting him to the possibility of nuclear weapons. The United States responded with the Manhattan Project. In short order, the new weapon produced by that project had made the United States the world's first true superpower since Genghis Khan's horsemen rode the plains of Central Asia seven hundred years before.
This true tale of American national greatness would be incomplete without a crucial fact: All four of the physicists who wrote that letter were born outside of the United States (three in Hungary, and one, Albert Einstein, in Germany). They were immigrants, as were many of the scientists who worked on the project itself. Born in countries where they faced persecution and limited opportunity, these brilliant individuals chose America as their home -- not the Soviet Union, not Great Britain, not Japan, and certainly not Germany.
Had they made a different choice, the world today might be a very different place.
A LEGACY OF GENIUS
This is not the only time high-skilled immigrants (or "HSIs") have ridden to America's rescue. From the very beginning, the United States has enjoyed a unique advantage held by almost no other country on the planet: the ability to attract and retain a huge number of the world's best and brightest. Before independence, for example, America was the beneficiary of perhaps the most elite immigrant group in history. Millions of Scots, who constituted much of the intellectual and technological elite of the British Empire, left Great Britain to seek religious freedom and better economic opportunities in the 13 Colonies. Many of the Founding Fathers, including Jefferson and Hamilton, were partly or wholly descended from that Scottish wave, as were many of America's greatest early inventors, such as Thomas Edison.