There is plenty of research (and frankly plenty of anecdotal evidence) that America's identity and history as a nation of hard-working, industrious, and ingenious immigrants is a key factor in its greatness.

Here are some small excerpts from

America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants is a source of tremendous economic strength, and current research confirms that immigrants who have been attracted to the U.S. for its pro-growth culture and excellent universities often stay and create valuable, fast-growing startup firms. High-skill immigrants in particular have two significant positive impacts on growth – first as critical engineering and science talent at U.S. companies and second as potential entrepreneurs of new U.S.-based companies. Despite the nearly universal bi-partisan support for high-skill immigration, the existing system of immigration into the U.S. has become a disaster. Visas and green cards are bureaucratic, the number of high-skill migrants to the U.S. is capped at an artificially low level, and security laws have made travel to the U.S. after 9/11 difficult. America now risks losing its attraction as a “brain magnet” in contrast to other nations that are reforming in order to compete for the critical resource known as human capital.
  • Immigrants are more likely to be self-employed than native-born Americans.
  • In 2006, foreign nationals residing in the U.S. were inventors or co-inventors in 25 percent of international patent applications filed from the U.S.
  • The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) estimates that since 1990 venture-backed firms owned by immigrants have created more than 400,000 jobs and represent a combined market capitalization of roughly $500 billion.
  • In companies like Cypress Semiconductors and Microsoft, for every foreign-born engineer hired, 4-5 additional employees are hired in marketing, manufacturing, and other related areas.
Some more from

A survey of 28,000 companies found that immigrants were key founders in more than a quarter of all the engineering and technology companies set up in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005.

The new research--led by Vivek Wadhwa, an executive-in-residence at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering--is a follow-up of a study published earlier this year by Wadhwa and his team that had counted $52 billion in annual sales by these immigrant-founded companies. Total employment at those companies: roughly 450,000.
The researchers say the "startling statistics" they have put together show that the U.S. economy depends upon the high rates of entrepreneurship and education among immigrants to "maintain its global edge."
But they also bring up the fact that the current immigration system has many issues:
The results of the study are especially significant for Indian immigrants, according to Wadhwa. "Indians are among the best educated of all immigrant groups," he says, adding that Indians founded more engineering and technology companies in the U.S. in the decade up to 2005 than the next four groups combined--those from the U.K., China, Taiwan and Japan. They accounted for 26% of all start-ups, about 117,000 jobs and $14 billion in revenue in 2005.

But that trend could be arrested or reversed by a growing phenomenon: Large numbers of skilled Indian immigrants are returning home. Many of them are heading back, Wadhwa says, because of the six-to-10 years it takes for their green cards--or permanent immigrant status--to arrive.

"This is a double loss for the U.S. One is that we lose good people. The second loss is that they will become our competitors," he notes, adding that this is true for many Chinese, Russian and European immigrants too. As a way to curb the outflow of immigrant talent, he suggests that the H1-B (temporary, nonimmigrant) visa be abolished altogether. "Instead, [we should] expand the number of green cards we issue to skilled immigrants" and allow these skilled immigrants to come in on permanent visas.

H1-B visas are problematic because they distort salaries, "and they do reduce American salaries; the critics are right about that," says Wadhwa. "If you come on an H1-B visa, your wife cannot work and she cannot get a driver's license. For six or 10 years, you cannot buy a house, because you don't know if you are going to be here or not."
Wadhwa argues that H1-B visas enable employers to exploit the vulnerability of skilled temporary workers. "No matter what we say, if you have an employee who can't leave you, you are not going to pay him more money than you have to," he says. "You are not going to treat him as nicely as someone who can leave."
The immigration issue was discussed on yesterdays "Need to Know":

So, what do you think?

Does legal immigration of high-tech workers lead to net job creation or net job competition?

How should immigration policy be modified?