President Trump Calls for America to Recruit 'the Smartest People in the World'

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Not a word appeared in the mainstream media about President Trump’s call for more legal immigrants to build America’s talent pool. The liberal media is so anxious to portray the president as a jingoist xenophobe that it ignored a key policy statement on immigration. Trump declared in his Jan. 4 press conference on the government shutdown that the U.S. should convince the hundreds of thousands of foreign students who attend our universities to stay here and contribute to the U.S. economy. He’s been listening to U.S. tech companies, who need the talent. And he’s exactly right:

At the same time, [people] can apply to come into our country legally, like so many people have done.  And we need people, Major.  We have to have people.  Because we have all these companies coming in.  We need great people.  But we want them to come in on a merit basis, and they have to come in on a merit basis.  They can’t come in the way they’ve been coming in for years.

I get calls from the great tech companies, and they’re saying we don’t allow people at the top of their class, at the best schools in the country, we don’t allow them to stay in our country.  So they end up going back to China and Japan and so many other countries all over the world, and we don’t keep them.  They get educated at our finest schools, and then we don’t allow them, through a various set of circumstances, to have any guarantees of staying.  So we lose out on great minds.  We can’t do that.

We have companies that, if we don’t change that — and we’re working on that, and we discussed that with the Democrats, and I think they agree.  We’re working on that.  But we don’t want to lose our great companies because we have a ridiculous policy that we won’t accept smart people.  So, call it politically correct or not, but we have to let these great, brilliant companies have the smartest people in the world.

Only 7% of U.S. undergraduates major in engineering, compared to a third in China. Russia, with roughly a third of our population, graduates as many engineers. We need more opportunities in STEM for Americans. We should subsidize engineers, mathematicians, and scientists and starve the resentment-studies programs that pollute American universities. To train more engineers and scientists, though, we would have to recruit more teachers from overseas, as Edward Dougherty, distinguished professor of engineering at Texas A&M University, explained in a recent essay in Asia Times.

The president displays his usual common sense and willingness to listen to industry leaders. This hasn’t been an easy call. More than a year ago, top administration officials told me that they wanted to keep Chinese students out of the United States because many of them were spies. In fact, overseas applications to American graduate programs in STEM have collapsed over the past year, by up to 50% in the case of some important physics programs, I am told by academic leaders. That’s a disaster for us.

Of course some foreign students will spy on us. That’s a counterintelligence problem. But there are tens of thousands of brilliant young Chinese who would jump at the chance to live in a free country where Big Brother doesn’t assign you a “social score,” where you can practice your religion and speak your mind without fear, and where you can build a business or pursue research without fear of censorship.

China always has been an empire, not a nation. The Chinese always have regarded the emperor (Communist or otherwise) as a necessary evil, a capo di tutti capi who prevents the country from dissolving into chaos–as it has so many times, tragically, when the center was weak. During a recent trip to China I told a group of government advisers that we Jews pray thrice daily for the return of the dynasty of King David, and asked them: “Which dynasty do you want to return?” The answer is, of course, none of them.

There is a chauvinistic prejudice in circulation that the Chinese can’t innovate.  Who do you think invented movable type, the magnetic compass, the clock, paper, gunpowder, and all the other basic components of the modern economy? China just landed the first spacecraft on the dark side of the moon. It’s true that the culture is more conformist, and per capita, fewer Chinese than Americans will take the risk to innovate. But you don’t need a lot of innovators to be an economic powerhouse. We should make an effort to recruit these innovators, the talented few, and with malice aforethought promote a brain drain out of China.

Yes, we have to watch out for spies. But this is a war of attrition: Economic and strategic dominance will belong to the country that can invent and implement in scale the next wave of technology. You don’t turn the tide by stealing blueprints and taking a plane to Beijing. Success depends on integrated teams of scientists, engineers, and production people working back and forth from the laboratory to the factory floor.

Things have been going in the wrong direction, but President Trump is on the case. I look forward to hearing details. Keeping the right people in is more important in my view than keeping the wrong people out.