Michio Kaku on Why Immigrants Are America’s Secret Weapon: They Compensate for Our Mediocre STEM Education & Keep Prosperity Going

Americans have often found themselves caught up in panics about immigration, like that now driving the campaign to build a wall between us and our third largest trading partner—when more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than arriving. Then we have the talk of banning an entire world religion, though, of course, we’ve seen this before, lest we forget that the Klan resurged in large part as an anti-Catholic group. All of this misinformation, mistrust, and outright contempt comes at a high cost, including that of any real understanding of how immigration works, and why it works, no matter how vehemently certain organizations fight against it.

The fact is that the U.S. might be a dynamo for capital but not when it comes to what economists crudely call “human capital.” The point applies not only to immigrant workers who do jobs Americans won’t, but also those who do jobs Americans can’t, because, as physicist Michio Kaku argues above, “the United States has the worst educational system known to science.” Were it solely up to U.S. graduates, the scientific establishment and tech economy would collapse, he says, “forget about Google, forget about Silicon Valley. There would be no Silicon Valley.” Instead, U.S. science and tech thrive because of immigrants who come on H-1B visas, “America’s secret weapon… the genius visa.”

Kaku goes on to press his case with daunting statistics about the number of foreign-born Ph.D. graduates, though he doesn’t say that all of those grads have H-1Bs. In fact, his position is a highly controversial one. Reliable studies show that many companies abuse the specialized work visa to outsource jobs Americans are fully qualified to do, and to create a class of immigrant workers who earn less than their U.S. counterparts and work under a modified form of indentured servitude. The visa is, after all, “a non-immigrant visa,” points out one critic, “and so has nothing at all to do with staying in the USA, becoming a citizen, or starting a business.” It is, more or less, a guest worker program.

Kaku’s tone can also seem grating, a smarmy reminder of what David H. Freedman calls in The Atlantic “open season on the nonsmart.” Calling American grads “stupid” will not likely endear many of them to his position. Nonetheless, when it comes to science education, it’s hard to argue with his assessments, and with his case for allowing the best minds in the world to come work for American companies (under more equitable conditions). In the Big Think video above, Kaku again presses his argument for the H-1B as instrumental to a “brain drain” into the United States, feeding its science and tech industries with fresh minds and fresh ideas constantly. His ideas about meritocracy may seem blithe, especially given the material advantages so many guest workers already have before arriving in the States. But in purely descriptive terms, the best U.S. graduates just simply cannot compete with many of their foreign-born colleagues.

Here Kaku’s argument takes a turn in both these videos and shows how the “secret weapon” is one we’ve pointed at ourselves. We can’t continue to depend on “geniuses” from other countries, he says, to prop up our science and technology sectors, especially since the brain drains back out, with H1-B visa holders frequently leaving, given their temporary status, and establishing companies in their home countries. “In reality,” wrote Mother Jones in 2013, “most of today’s H-1B workers don’t stick around to become the next Albert Einstein or Sergey Brin.” That year, “the top 10 users of H-1B visas… were all offshore outsourcing firms… that hired nearly half nearly half of H1-B workers.” As one expert explained, “The H-1B worker learns the job and then rotates back to the home country and takes the work with him.”

It’s likely large numbers of those workers feel less and less welcome in the U.S. But it’s also true, as Kaku says, that Americans continue to fall far behind in math and science. There may indeed be few Americans who can fill many of those jobs or continue to push technological innovation forward in the U.S.

Related Content:

Free Online Math Courses

Michio Kaku Explains the Physics Behind Absolutely Everything

Colorful Animation Visualizes 200 Years of Immigration to the U.S. (1820-Present)

Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants Arriving on America’s Welcoming Shores Circa 1907

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (23)
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  • Alan Drabke says:

    There are 17 million American College Graduates living in mom’s basement, unable to pay tuition debts, as a result of the H 1 B Visa. I wish everyone of these victims could listen to this piece of genocidal propaganda.

  • Randy says:

    Those aren’t signs of a “secret weapon”. Those are signs of rot.

    “do jobs Americans won’t” — this is ridiculous. US people will do the jobs, but they demand a real wage and real benefits for doing it. Outsourcing and immigration have reduced US citizens’ ability to apply pressure to get these things, so you say they “won’t” do the jobs. It’s an insult, and a lie.

    “U.S. science and tech thrive because of immigrants” is also an illusion. It’s clearly not US science and tech that is thriving, but corporate science and tech. Corporations know no countries. There is no there there. The US would be better off without them, forced to see the true reality of their scientific ability instead of wallowing in a dreamland.

    I guess I’ll stop there. I was never impressed by Kaku.

  • nms980 says:

    True. What would the politics off the world make you think thatt mediocrity in the world is important. They are the majority o the voters. It’s not true. America tied all their assets in trade agreements if the foreign world would abandon dollar there would be a catastrophe in the us. Arrogance goes so far it is not called a bluff. If the Michio Kaku was interested to make america strong he would be even harsher.
    The comment above is in attempt demagogy. Poor man with a poor mind.

  • Law Vance says:

    Actually, the Latinos do the jobs the Whites and Blacks WON’T do. The Asians and others do the jobs the Whites and Blacks CAN’T do. STEM comes under the CAN’T area. The Latinos are coming up to match the Whites and Blacks going down.

    Don’t worry, Randy, the filthy Beaners and Slopes and Wogs will never beat the USA at sinking three-pointers, spitting rhymes or dancing hip-hop. Your future is secure!

  • nms980 says:

    Now that’s harsh to Randy. But… I agree.

  • Tim says:

    Why does so many use immigrant and illegal immigrant as being the same. They are not. Immigration is like a cookie it is sweet, taste good but to much can make you fat. Illegal immigration is like a poison cookie, it will kill a nation quickly.

  • S.S. says:

    My contribution to the discussion:


    Give it a chance. It really does tie in to what’s being discussed here.

  • Ruud says:

    Michio Kaku, why you just get bend.
    Take a pill or something and go back to spaceout, that’s what you good at.
    In multi universums where we never can end up.
    Your dream world will burst like a bubble and if not this world will never work with all those crazy dream world ideas what you having as some scientist having now.
    Peace out dumbass.

  • jamie says:

    i agree with him america likes to keep the population of america like sheep BHAAAA BHAAAA!! sheep just follow and so as they are told. intelligent people will not stand for the lies and corruption of the america government.


  • Whilst what Michio Kaku says may be true, deliberately causing ‘brain drains’ in other countries is not the least bit ethical, in my opinion. It would be fairer all round if the USA were to improve its education system and reform its work practices to enable the indigenous workforce to compete internationally. A country being able to stand on its own two feet is much more viable than to rely on poaching foreign workers.

  • akil lakhdar says:

    Hello professor Robots Technology Nanotechnology will get a lot of science and increase in its development dimensions is limited at this stage we can not confront them looking all that is connected to the Internet and satellite Internet .mojat electro Magnatissh spectrum Busissour Turanzizto phone laser magnetization physicist electro-optical Aloeva light between the air and the air there are laws this is not related to the programming content of the unified Alndharah astrobiological everything to the other two memoranda Reserved Thank away

  • John says:

    There is a H1B cap of 65,000 every year. 25,000 of those are only for masters and PhD students. Getting sponsorship from companies eliminates many international students from job consideration. Considering how many students in college majoring in STEM are lower than most countries… Yes, I totally concur the 17 million American graduate students living in their parents basement are the result of a small group of qualified professional working in the growing STEM industries. I totally agree, jackass.

  • William says:

    Ouch! I can see what they say is correct: “The truth hurts”.

  • Adam says:

    It’s 100% true, especially in the Bay Area (CA); and the majority of American Citizen-engineers and technicians are moving out to North Carolina, South Carolina and Montana. Facebook thrives on H1B workers, and its data farm (Altoona) in Iowa beams tons of data back to India (the major H1B player). In addition most of California’s community and low-cost schools and education facilities are entirely populated of Indian (H1B workers) who have a muffled Indian layer over their English, causing many Americans to drop out.

    Then many of the American citizen adult workers have no resources to get up-to-date with the latest technology. It’s funny because you expect all of the nearby companies and restaurants, shops, schools, etc. in Silicon Valley to have what Facebook has, what Twitter, Zynga, and a whole list of other Tech companies in California, but unfortunately a majority of the companies are going out of business.

    What’s replacing these companies are myriads of Mediterranean and Indian restaurants which primarily cater to their ethnicities. In addition, larger companies are quickly turning into Mid-Eastern real estate for apartments. While that sounds beneficial, Mid-Eastern run apartments cater to their ethnicity over American citizens and often will display lower service to American citizens. More than half of the real estate in the Bay Area is Mid-Eastern / Indian owned. The Government is still giving tons of money overseas so that America can stay up-to-date- American specific businesses that is- who support as many H1B workers as possible. Tons of Iranian workers are coming to the United States (especially California).

    A ton of doctors are quitting because of how many Mid-Eastern doctors there are taking up other medical jobs and acting against American ethics and morals in treating patients.

    Another key problem is that there are a ton of Indian and Middle Eastern Lawyers, not to mention, Iranian and Armenian government officials, and those are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Adam says:

    By “adult” I meant mom-and-pop / parent companies / small-businesses

  • Adam says:

    Oh – and there are lawsuits abound from every angle.

    Every time a Middle Eastern company or even a Middle Eastern buyer purchases a home, property, business, etc. it is common practice for them to sue the seller for the rest of their money.

    So everyone in the Bay Area is fighting to have the best defense lawyers they can. Unfortunately, the best lawyers are drawn to the highest-bidders and guess who those primarily are? The Asians, the Middle Easterners and the Indians.

    It’s no surprise hotels are going down in service and are getting expensive- the Hilton hotels are almost entirely Middle Eastern. There are also some odd changes too, for example Embassy Suites is removing the fauna and flora from many of its properties because plant-life isn’t popular in the Mideast, and painting everything brown and white for its desert flare. One Middle Eastern flaw is the obsession with toilet paper, and many hotels are now gift wrapping toilet paper over having clean sheets for guests.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on bed bugs. It’s now almost common to find some sort of bug in a hotel in the Bay Area, as foreigners aren’t doing the usual shower twice a day.

  • Adam says:

    One last carp.

    There are a ton of Saudi Arabians living in the Bay Area. And out of all the schools in the Bay Area, there is a small college within a Private High School campus called Menlo School which is where Saudis living in California send their children to. It’s not Stanford or UC Berkeley or even Cal Tech. What is extremely odd is that the “dorm” looks like it has 30 bedrooms max and there are no actual college buildings.

    Many of these Saudi families of course own a major percentage of nearby real estate in Atherton and Menlo Park. In addition, many of them have a stake in many of the Bay Area Startups which are Mid-Eastern founded.

    Such “Saudi” startups have included: Quora, Instacart, SnapChat, WhatsApp, TaskRabbit, DoorDash, Uber, and a long list of many others.

  • Adam says:

    H1B workers are surprisingly being paid a ton. Here is an example for Facebook’s salary offered for incoming H1B Workers:


    – It looks like H1B workers are getting higher salaries than any American Citizens have in general.

  • nms980 says:

    omg. Mediocrity doesn’t pay.
    You live capitalism. Future needs a adaptable order.
    When will you stop the demagogy. Are you informed in anything?
    I thought that there is only one comment that is bulsh**.
    Guess this is children’s playground the loudest gets the attention.
    Grow up.

  • nms980 says:

    @Adam and his like.

  • djamel boukheddami says:

    Bravo dear Prof ; “Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”
    John F. Kennedy

  • engie says:

    If you can’t compete, it isn’t because you’re from United States, it’s because you don’t have any differential. They want the best, and if the USA educational system can’t make the best graduates, the ones from other countries will take those jobs. Plain and simple.

  • John says:

    If we’re going to improve our education system, we will first have to decide as a nation that not just rich kids get decent educational resources at the K-12 level. And decide to pay math and science teachers what they are worth. Free college for those who excel academically would help too.

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