I recently wrote here in defense of the U.S. accepting Syrian refugees, in agreement with President Obama’s contention that America’s tradition of helping desperate innocents should not be so quickly or easily be curtailed. My stance of course is the same concerning “El Donald’s” call for a moratorium in entry of Muslims to the U.S.; Trump is wrong, on a number of levels.
But quickly following Trump’s incendiary statements, Pat Thibodeau of Computerworld wrote up an article on what Trump’s policy would mean for the H-1B work visa program. Thibodeau has done a truly outstanding job over the years in covering the H-1B beat for the magazine, so I was a bit surprised by the alarmist tone of the article, such as his statement,
If, under some incredible circumstance, Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States were to become law, it would have significant impact on the H-1B program.
I am very doubtful that more than a few percent of H-1Bs or other tech-related entrants to the U.S. are Muslims. In particular, a group that Pat cites, foreign PhD students in CS, is one that I know quite well, having worked with them closely for several decades, both in my own university and in research conferences and the like.
This is not to say there are no such students. I’ve known a number of them, and came to the active defense of one who I felt was being treated in a prejudiced manner by two faculty colleagues (both of them nonwhite immigrants, by the way). But in percentage terms, I doubt that more than 5% of foreign CS doctoral students are Muslims.
That Computerworld article would make interesting side-by-side reading with a recent piece in the Washington Post. Headlined “This is the group that’s surprisingly prone to violent extremism,” a subheading explains what group we’re talking about:
Engineers are much more likely to become fundamentalist terrorists
Before you rush to check to see whether the Post article was authored by Mr. Trump, let me assure you that it is a regular article, citing research soon to be published by Princeton University Press. According to the article, the researchers found
More than twice as many members of violent Islamist organizations have engineering degrees as have degrees in Islamic studies. Nearly half of those terrorists who had degrees had degrees in engineering. Even if you make extremely generous assumptions, nine times as many terrorists were engineers as you would expect by chance. They find a similar pattern among Islamist terrorists who grew up in the West – fewer of these terrorists had college degrees, but even more of those who had degrees were engineers.
Some of you may remember that Mohammed Atta, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was an engineer, albeit educated in Germany rather than the U.S. Both of the perpetrators in the San Bernardino attacks had health-related degrees; imagine what even broader harm they could have brought.
Getting back to Trump, I must say that while I disagree with him on this issue, I find some of his critics interviewed on CNN etc. to be just as rash and simplistic as he is. Several have mentioned the WW II internment of ethnic Japanese, some of whom were U.S. citizens, as one of those “Never again!” things, something inherently racist. While I don’t defend that action either (among other things, they confiscated the internees’ property and often didn’t return it after the war), calling it “racist” is a little strong. I’m sure many Chinese-Americans, with relatives in China while Japan was brutally and barbarically attacking that country, didn’t regard the internment as racist. And the utter shock of many Americans at seeing a foreign attack on American soil, must have been extremely profound. And I wonder how long Trump’s critics will hold out if there are, tragically, more Bostons and San Bernardinos in the coming months.
Nothing is simple these days.