Video: Immigration laws blocking economic potential?

  1. Closed captioning of: Immigration laws blocking economic potential?

    >>> all this week here, as you may know, we've been taking a close look at the challenges for the changing american economy in our series we're calling " america at the crossroads ." one of the big questions for the u.s. is how to take advantage of the large number of foreigners who come here, get educated in our great colleges and universities and want to stay here but can't. it's causing an expensive brain drain . tom brokaw back tonight with more on this. tom?

    >> we hear a lot about immigration issues that involve workers who come here from mexico seeking low paying jobs, but in the high tech world, there's another kind of immigration controversy. it involves the h-s-b visa. that's a permit allowing a limited number of highly trained foreigners to stay here for just a few years even if they're successful entrepreneurs creating jobs. critics -- and there are many -- say that restriction penalizes america and helps our economic competitors. look around the offices of stat deal, an online coupon business, and it's not hard to see all the signs of a thriving venture. a young staff full of drive and ambition, a toteboard on the wall attracting new customers, one about every second. but snap deal isn't in silicon valley . it's in new delhi.

    >> we link up with vendors in each one of the cities.

    >> reporter: this man and his partner launched snap deal in february 2010 . they're already the number one e-commerce retailer in india .

    >> it's a simple concept. every day there's one very attractive deal. people come to the website, buy the deal, then go use it at the merchant.

    >> reporter: the company has created 300 jobs and counting, but he sometimes wonders what if, what if the country where he got his education, at the university of pennsylvania , where he helped start a company while he was still in business school , had let him stay in the united states ?

    >> i put my chips in the american basket and said that, let me try my hand here.

    >> reporter: but his visa ran out. and so he took his skills back to india . the united states issues only 85,000 of the so-called h-1-b visas for highly skilled workers every year. these visas expire after six year. the san francisco bay area , the home of the silicon valley , stanford and berkeley, this has always been a magnet for the best and brightest from foreign lands, but now many are wondering why do u.s. immigration officials make it so hard for them to stay?

    >> our competitors.

    >> reporter: this professor has been warning of a reverse brain drain for years.

    >> there's a lot of very good human beings who are unemployed, who lost their jobs. it is easy for them to blame foreigners. la they don't understand is that people like me, when i came to this country, i came here to study. my first company created a thousand job, my second company created 2,000 jobs.

    >> reporter: his research found between 1995 and 2005 , 25% of the start-ups in silicon valley had at least one immigrant founder. and those start-ups created almost a half million jobs. u.s. immigration rules are big roadblocks for the enterprising foreigners.

    >> everybody has stores to share. just how painful the visa process has been to quickly engage with customers, make sure that everything's developing and you've got this huge distraction on the side worrying whether you'll get kicked out of the country.

    >> reporter: a gathering of young silicon valley entrepreneurs center on their frustration over visas. how many of you think that you'll end up back in your home countries rather than staying here because of a visa issue? show me your hands. a number of you will go back and take the jobs with. you and immigration officials often don't even understand the technology business.

    >> in our case, we got a beautiful letter from the immigration service asking to prove that we had enough warehouse space to store our software inventory. we don't even have boxes of software. it's all on the internet.

    >> why deal with all this old school invasion system, just go where we are wanted?

    >> reporter: he went where he felt welcome, close to family and a newly vibrant india .

    >> there is no either/or relationship between the american dream and the indian dream. they can both exist. it's just that the guys who are building the indian dream right now could have been part of the american dream , too.

    >> reporter: almost everyone agrees that we do need immigration and visa reform, but that is a hot button issue in congress because of the undocumented workers at the bottom of the pay scale. meanwhile, the u.s. state department is encouraging foreign entrepreneurs at its outposts around the world. and that young indian who went back home? he's now thinking of opening a branch of his company in this country.

    >> powerful story. heartbreaking at times. tomorrow brokaw, thanks. our series will continue tomorrow night.

updated 3/3/2011 7:08:17 PM ET 2011-03-04T00:08:17

The number of migrants leaving Mexico dropped by more than two-thirds since peaking in the middle of the last decade, and more migrants are coming back than before, according to new census figures released Thursday.

The National Statistics and Geography Institute said the 2010 census shows a net outflow of about 145,000 Mexicans leaving the country per year from 2005 to 2010, the period covered by the count.

That is down from a peak of about 450,000 between 2000 and 2005, and about 240,000 per year between 1995 and 2000.

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The census is held once every 10 years, but an intermediate count is held every five. The vast majority of Mexican migrants head to the United States.

Eduardo Sojo, the president of the institute's board, said the number of immigrants returning, while still a minority, had almost doubled over the decade.

"The migration phenomenon has undergone a drastic change in the last five years," Sojo said.

About 31 percent of migrants who left in the last five years had returned, compared to about 17 percent of migrants who left in 2000, Sojo said. He attributed the lower outflows to the economic downturn in the United States and the greater difficulty of crossing the border as a result of stepped-up U.S. border enforcement.

And he said there was a third factor that was perhaps rooted in Mexico's steadily slowing rate of population increase. Population growth cooled to about 1.4 percent in 2010, from a peak of about 3.4 percent per year in the 1960s. Mexico's population now stands at about 112 million and while still young, is increasingly graying.

Only 29.3 percent of the population was under 15 in 2010, compared to 34.1 percent in 2000. The average number of children for women of childbearing age has fallen to 1.7, from 2.4 in 1990. There are only 3.9 people living in the average home, as compared to 5 in 1990.

"In the end, the supply of migrants is not unlimited," Sojo said. "There is a finite number of people are willing to take that risk."

Sojo also noted that population had dropped in some cities and towns in the north of Mexico, a region that once saw explosively high growth rates but which has been particularly hard hit by drug cartel violence.

"In effect, we have seen a decline in the population in some municipalities in the north of the country," Sojo said. "We asked the census takers in the area what the reason was, and in many cases the reason was people migrating out of these townships ... we cannot venture a guess as to the reasons" why they left, or whether the violence played a role.

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But in some cases, the effect is clear: the town of El Porvenir in the Rio Grande Valley, which has become a battle ground for cartels, lost more than half its population between 2005 and 2010. Ciudad Mier, in Tamaulipas state, has lost more than a quarter of its population in the same period.

In other data, the average Mexican had 8.6 years of schooling in 2010, compared to 6.5 years in 1990. About 84 percent of Mexicans listed themselves as Catholic in 2010, down from 89.7 percent in 1990.

Most Mexicans — 59.5 percent — received salaries of $15 per day or less, and 38.7 percent were paid $10 per day or less. While the vast majority of Mexicans have basic services and access to some form of health care, only 21.3 percent of households have Internet and 29.4 percent have computers.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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