Obama and the participants in the Jobs Summit managed to avoid the immigration issue, which is quite an accomplishment considering it's such an important factor in unemployment. There was one question about immigration during Obama's forum at the end of the summit (Whitehouse Transcript):
At last week's Job Summit, there was talk of a second stimulus package, of tax credits for small businesses that hire new workers, of an Infrastructure Bank to select national priority public works projects like the Hoover Dam and TVA of yesteryear.
But no one, it seems, advanced the one obvious idea that would have the most immediate and dramatic impact–a moratorium on all immigration into the United States.
QÂ Â Â Mr. President, thank you for the invitation.Â My name is Bill Aossey from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Â I have a request that won't cost us anything.Â It'll bring money home.Â Can you please help ease the visa regulations so we can have students coming back, and international business visitors that will bring money and cultivate long-term resources of culture and academic relationships?Â So please help ease this visa — it'll bring money in and it won't cost us anything.Â Thank you.Aossey didn't consider the real cost of handing out student visas: jobs and national security. Of course neither did Obama, who agreed that letting in more foreign students is a freebie:
If those students start seeing a closed door, then we are losing what is one of our greatest competitive advantages, and that's something that I think we're committed to doing.It's worth watching the video on CSPAN at the 40 minute mark. When I watched it live on CSPAN the thing that struck me as very strange was that Aossey was identified as president of Midamar Food Services. Why, I asked myself, would somebody in the food service industry be so interested in student visas?
Let me broaden the point. There are a lot of things that don't cost money that could make a difference.
The Midamar website reveals some powerful clues as background on Bill Aossey's grandfather is provided:
In 1907, Yahya Aossey, a young boy of about 16 years old, left the Lebanon Region of Syria to immigrate to the "Promised Land" of America and to the heartland of the U.S.A.The ethnic identity of Midamar's clientele is also revealed. According to the same website:
Further, MIDAMAR'S continued goal is to satisfy the Western and Ethnic Halal food requests by Muslim consumers wanting to be part of Western society, yet still remain faithful to the teachings of Islam with regard to what is Halal and Haram.Perhaps it's a coincidence, but Moslems are big users of student visas. It's one of the favored methods for radical Middle Eastern Moslems to immigrate to the U.S. That's how many of the 9/11 terrorists came here.
Obama's response was disturbing:
THE PRESIDENT:Â Well, I think you make an important suggestion.Â We live in a interconnected world and an interdependent world, and I think that, properly, we had to respond to 9/11 by reviewing our policies on visas, on immigration, on a whole host of issues.Perhaps another coincidence, but Obama's reply sure seemed to indicate that he knew all about Bill Aossey's ethnic and religious identity, and Obama connected Aossey with the desire to allow more "students" to come from Islamic countries. Obama almost seemed to be apologetic towards Aossey that student visas were restricted after 9/11. Fortunately Obama never gave Aossey more than empty rhetoric as far as increasing the availability of visas, but he spent quite a bit of time opining that there is no reason for the U.S. to indulge in protectionism.
But I think it is important for us not to get into a bunker mentality. That's not America's strength. Our strength has always been saying yes to the rest of the world, inviting ideas and different cultures and commerce. And we have not seen the same kinds of openness, I think, over the last several years that I'd like to see.Obama pushed the education button and used it as an opportunity to take a jab at working Americans:
Now, we've got to do it in a prudent way, but, you know, let's just take the example of foreign students. One of the great things about this country is we get the best and the brightest talent to study here, and once they study here they start enjoying the intellectual freedom and the entrepreneurship, and they decide to stay, and they start new businesses. And suddenly you've got a whole new generation of folks who are creating intel or other extraordinary businesses.
But I told the story of my lunch with the President — President Lee of South Korea.Â And, Gary, you were in that lunch — remember I asked him, what's happening in terms of education policy in Korea?Â And he said, well, you know, my biggest problem is, Korean parents are too demanding and they are insisting, for example, that I import, and I've had to import, thousands of foreign English teachers because they all feel that first graders should be learning English already.Did Obama just imply that American parents are slackers while Korean parents are "too demanding"? It appears that Obama was sold a phony bill of goods when he talked to President Lee. While it's true that Korea hires many English teachers the number is nowhere near "thousands" — it's more like "lots".
In order to teach in Korea, Americans can get an E-2 visa. In case you think you want to take the next plane to Korea for one of the "thousands" of lucrative jobs, read this disclaimer from the U.S. State Department. First thing to pay attention to is that unlike the U.S., they take immigration law seriously so don't try to pull a fast one!
LEGAL WARNING! Some Americans have run into serious legal problems with Korean Immigration because they either work as English teachers while in Korea on tourist visas or they accept part-time employment or private classes without obtaining the proper permission. Violation of Korean immigration laws can result in severe penalties including imprisonment, fines of up to 100,000 won ($120) for each day of overstay, or deportation with a ban on re-entry for up to two years. It is your responsibility to understand local laws and to obey them.Now, here is the really bad news!
Unfortunately some American citizens come to Korea under contract, with promises of generous salaries, bonuses and other amenities, only to find themselves in tenuous situations, often lacking funds to return to the U.S.Of course our government tends to be overly optimistic. For a far more realistic assessment of these jobs be sure to read this from Charles Moffat, somebody that's been there, done that: "Don't Teach English in South Korea."
If you're thinking of going overseas to teach English in South Korea, my first advice to you is DON'T.Now you know why Korea needs so many English teachers. It's because their education is sooooooooo superior!
Don't go! Pick a different country or find a job somewhere else.
I estimate there is a 70% chance that if you go you will end up getting screwed over in your contract and actually end up losing money. Most people don't last the first three months with a company. The ones who stay longer usually end up getting screwed over for even more money.
Obama didn't stop blabbering about the mentality of those hard working Asians — he included China.
Now, you think about that mentality, which is pervasive throughout Asia — you saw the same thing in China — and it gives you a sense of what we're up against in terms of global competition.Let's be blunt about what Obama really said: he pushed the education button of course, but more importantly he implied that the problem with our economy is that foreigners such as Koreans are just plain willing to work harder. And doggone it, American parents just let their kids goof off too much!
So as tough as this recession is, as tough as the job market may be, we need to double down on our education investment.