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Living the American Dream – not so much for talented immigrants

RDC: Welcome back to The Costa Report. I’m Rebecca Costa, and Luis Alvarez, the CEO the Alvarez Technology Group has joined us to give us a peek at what’s happening in technology. Welcome back Luis!

LA: Thank you Rebecca.

RDC: So my notes here say that you want to talk about our borders?

LA: I do. Your conversation with Congressman King got my mind going because it seems our nation has been in an ongoing struggle with immigration issues for many decades now. Not a single day goes by without some politician making news by wanting to throw more money at the problem. Just this past week, the governor of Texas – Greg Abbott – asked the state’s legislature to approve an increase in the border security budget to pay for more officers and more technology to prevent illegal immigration. By the way, Texas has been on the forefront on the use of technology to track illegal immigration, including Aerostat aerial surveillance balloons equipped with remotely operated high-powered cameras that operate 24 hours a day and provide a 360 degree field of view.

RDC: I heard about those surveillance balloons and they sound like a great idea . .once you get up in the sky visibility is a cinch.

LA: That’s true, Rebecca, but unfortunately, Abbott’s request for funding may be for nothing: numerous studies have repeatedly shown that hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested by the U.S. on technology which was supposed to improve border security and to date, none have produced any measurable benefit.


RDC: I don’t doubt you Luis – but how can that be true?


LA: I know – it’s hard to believe. But even today – U.S. Customs and Border Protection is using every technology conceivable to fortify 650 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border. They have deployed drones, tethered radar blimps, P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, thermal-imaging devices, towers with day and night video cameras, ground surveillance radar and much more. Yet, NONE of it has made a difference according to the experts.

RDC: I still have to say that I am surprised – you would think that just getting above ground level would be a big help – I know that works for the military so I guess I don’t know why it wouldn’t work in terms of border surveillance. . .

LA: Unfortunately, when it comes to border security, the technology tools we have available to us aren’t the magic bullet we’d hoped. It’s a people problem that can’t be solved by technology. Take one of the most visible tools that legislators want to deploy at the border including Congressman King: a variant of the Predator drone that flew combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. While it can stay aloft for 12 hours at a time and its cameras peer several miles across the border, it costs $3,000 an hour to operate, given the extensive support system that’s required to maintain it, and at the end of the day, some person still has to go out and investigate the things it detects.

RDC: But can’t the drone follow the trespasser and report their GPS location so that law enforcement can go to that spot and pick them up?

LA:  Technology probably won’t go a long way to solve our border security problem but that’s the least of our worries. This newfound anti-immigrant attitude that our politicians are embracing is going to cost our nation dearly in the future. Consider the trillions of dollars of wealth and the hundreds of millions of jobs around the world that were created thanks to the businesses that were started in the Silicon Valley. The impact of those businesses would be a fraction of what it has been if not for the ability of technology companies to attract talent from around the world, the vast majority of whom stay in this country and become hard working and tax paying American entrepreneurs who go on to start their own companies and perpetuate the cycle.


That 40 year success story is being threatened by the extreme politics of immigration opponents, who are literally hanging up signs telling these folks “You’re not welcome!”

RDC: On the other hand – if we aren’t more diligent we have the issue of making it easier for terrorists to come flooding in. .

LA: That’s true Rebecca but think about this: Every year, over a quarter of a million foreign students graduate from colleges and universities in the United States, in most cases after paying full tuition and contributing over $24 billion to our economy and do you know what the first thing we tell them is after their done with school? Go home! Take your advanced degree in science and technology and go back to where you came from. Start a business there! Grow their economy! We don’t need you here. The fact is, less than 35 percent of these grads stay in this country yet they represent one of the most industrious and entrepreneurial group of people in our nation. Quite honestly, it’s insanity.


Every country outside of the US wants to build the next Silicon Valley and they are dusting off the welcome mats to those students that we chase away. The United Kingdom in particular is trying to challenge California as the next best place to start a business, by making it easy for talented foreign grads to move their and start businesses and careers. And that includes our neighbor to the north, Canada, also a member of the UK, which makes emigration into the country a breeze.

RDC: As a sociobiologist I am a big believer in the idea of the path of least resistance – so when you make it easier to legally emigrate, than do it ILLegally, then everything will change. People generally will take the path of least resistance when offered the choice. . which in this case means making legal immigration easier and cheaper than risking your life and paying shady characters. .

LA: Well, the good news is that there’s still a chance to fix the problem with our immigration system by realizing that not all immigrants are the same and we should be open to attracting the kind of entrepreneurial men and women who have always flocked to this country to build the American dream like the rest of us have

RDC: Here Here – I tell you Luis – if terrorism had not created such fear, I really do think we would be open to the idea of allowing more people with valuable skills to come to the country. .it’s a shame that mesh of the filter has gotten to fine that now almost nothing can pass through it. . well, that’s our time for today but thank you Luis and we’ll see you again next week. .

LA: Thank you Rebecca. This is Luis Alvarez from the Alvarez Technology Group reminding you that when it comes to technology, forewarned, is forearmed!

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