Any postmortem on how the United States handled COVID-19 will find plenty to criticize about the U.S. preparation and response. But delivery of multiple safe and effective vaccines in less than nine months is universally recognized as our most important success. And that achievement wouldn’t have been possible without America’s greatest resource: our ability to attract talent from around the world, integrate them into the world’s largest economy, and let them collaborate and share ideas in the world’s most intellectually productive talent clusters.
What would the mortality statistics look like if mRNA pioneer Katalin Karikó had not moved here in 1985? If she had had to face today’s byzantine immigration process, she likely would not have been able to.
Just five years after she moved here, the United States established a ceiling on the number of skilled temporary workers allowed to come to the United States. Though universities like those who employed Karikó are exempted from the caps, further changes came in 1998 that would have barred Karikó from coming on an H-1B based on the details of her initial job offer. Even if she found another path here, it would undoubtedly have set her research back years, and mRNA development more generally.