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What do the Hunger Games and our immigration system have in common?

Posted Oct 21, 2014

Talat Imran
Talat Imran

Hunger Games Lottery

What do the Hunger Games and our immigration system have in common? Well, they both feature a painfully absurd lottery that pits good people against one another. Now, while the Hunger Games is an entertaining work of art set in a dystopian future, the reality of the H1B process we live with today can only be described as stranger than fiction.

Our country’s policies force educated immigrants, trained by the US education system, to compete over a finite number of annual spots. The engineers and scientists who don’t win the immigration lottery are forced to abandon their dream and pursue other alternatives, hurting American businesses that need talented people in order to grow. In an increasingly competitive world, willfully engaging in reverse brain drain goes beyond bad policy; it’s downright foolish.

This isn’t to say that we don’t have hardworking, skilled domestic labor, but economic growth is not a zero sum game. Finding the right individuals to be part of your team, especially for startups like ours and the ones we fund where headcount is low, is absolutely essential. Having our government put in place arbitrary and artificial limits, when they are dependent on the very tax dollars created by growing businesses, is a case study in unintended consequences. 

We live in a time of profound demographic shifts. The healthcare industry has done a successful job of consistently increasing average life expectancy. Couple this with the fact that people are getting married later and having fewer kids, and what used to look like a sturdy population pyramid is turning into an unwieldy game of Jenga. One obvious way to battle the greying of America is to open the gates to more immigrants. We are incredibly fortunate that there are so many people who want to come to the US and make a new life. These folks tend to marry and have children at higher rates than the domestic population, which is probably the only way to keep us from experiencing the steep population declines of countries like Japan or Italy. 

As is the case for many things in life, our awareness of this issue is borne out of personal experience. We were fortunate enough recently to navigate the H1b lottery process successfully, but for the literally tens of thousands of people on the outside looking in, we sincerely hope that politicians come up with something better than “may the odds be ever in your favor.”


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