America’s Top High School Science Students are the Children of Immigrants

Regeneron Science Talent Search Society for Science & the Public2017 finalists
Courtesy of Society for Science & the Public

America’s Top High School Science Students Are the Children of Immigrants

Mar 14, 2017

If the children of immigrants somehow disappeared from the U.S., America would suddenly be in a serious science talent deficit.

That’s the conclusion that can be drawn from a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to public policy research on trade, immigration, and education.

The organization found that 33 of the 40 finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search–the leading science competition for U.S. high school students, run by the Society for Science & the Public and now known as the Regeneron Science Talent Search–were the children of immigrants. Specifically, 30 out of the 40 finalists had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas, the option that is no longer available for expedited processing due to a recent policy change from the Trump administration.

“The science competition has been called the ‘Junior Nobel Prize,'” the Foundation says. “These outstanding children of immigrants would never have been in America if their parents had not been allowed into the U.S.”

Their ranks have been steadily increasing since 2004, the Foundation showed.

Here were the countries of origins for the 2016 finalists’ parents: India was No. 1 at 14, followed by China at No. 11.

And of the nine winners of the 2016 competition, seven were the children of immigrants.

A Little Trump Family History

Read the Letter Trump’s Immigrant Grandpa Wrote Begging Not to Be Deported

A Dose of Reality About Syrian Refugees

My sister found this on Facebook, posted by an Immigration Lawyer named Scott Hicks. It does a wonderful job of explaining why pretending to be a refugee is the LEAST attractive, MOST difficult method for terrorists to get into any particular country, and into the United States in particular.

Please read this and tell me how denying entry to those fleeing for their lives makes us safer?  Tell me how it makes us anything more than fearful bigots?  Tell me how it makes ISIL weaker, when their ultimate goal is turn the world against all Muslims, so Muslims have nowhere to go but to ISIL?

Scott Hicks

November 19, 2015 Edited ·

Most of my friends know I practice Immigration law. As such, I have worked with the refugee community for over two decades. This post is long, but if you want actual information about the process, keep reading.

I can not tell you how frustrating it is to see the misinformation and outright lies that are being perpetuated about the refugee process and the Syrian refugees. So, here is a bit of information from the real world of someone who actually works and deals with this issue.

The refugee screening process is multi-layered and is very difficult to get through. Most people languish in temporary camps for months to years while their story is evaluated and checked.

First, you do not get to choose what country you might be resettled into. If you already have family (legal) in a country, that makes it more likely that you will go there to be with family, but other than that it is random. So, you can not simply walk into a refugee camp, show a document, and say, I want to go to America. Instead, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) works with the local authorities to try to take care of basic needs. Once the person/family is registered to receive basic necessities, they can be processed for resettlement. Many people are not interested in resettlement as they hope to return to their country and are hoping that the turmoil they fled will be resolved soon. In fact, most refugees in refugee events never resettle to a third country. Those that do want to resettle have to go through an extensive process.

Resettlement in the U.S. is a long process and takes many steps. The Refugee Admissions Program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within DHS conducts refugee interviews and determines individual eligibility for refugee status in the United States.

We evaluate refugees on a tiered system with three levels of priority.

First Priority are people who have suffered compelling persecution or for whom no other durable solution exists. These individuals are referred to the United States by UNHCR, or they are identified by the U.S. embassy or a non-governmental organization (NGO).

Second priority are groups of “special concern” to the United States. The Department of State determines these groups, with input from USCIS, UNHCR, and designated NGOs. At present, we prioritize certain persons from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran, Burma, and Bhutan.

Third priority are relatives of refugees (parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21) who are already settled in the United States may be admitted as refugees. The U.S.-based relative must file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) and must be processed by DHS.

Before being allowed to come to the United States, each refugee must undergo an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process conducted by Regional Refugee Coordinators and overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs). Individuals generally must not already be firmly resettled (a legal term of art that would be a separate article). Just because one falls into the three priorities above does not guarantee admission to the United States.

The Immigration laws require that the individuals prove that they have a “well-founded fear,” (another legal term which would be a book.) This fear must be proved regardless of the person’s country, circumstance, or classification in a priority category. There are multiple interviews and people are challenged on discrepancies. I had a client who was not telling the truth on her age and the agency challenged her on it. Refugees are not simply admitted because they have a well founded fear. They still must show that they are not subject to exclusion under Section 212(a) of the INA. These grounds include serious health matters, moral or criminal matters, as well as security issues. In addition, they can be excluded for such things as polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, or previous deportations. Under some circumstances, the person may be eligible to have the ground waived.

At this point, a refugee can be conditionally accepted for resettlement. Then, the RSC sends a request for assurance of placement to the United States, and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) works with private voluntary agencies (VOLAG) to determine where the refugee will live. If the refugee does have family in the U.S., efforts will be made to resettle close to that family.

Every person accepted as a refugee for planned admission to the United States is conditional upon passing a medical examination and passing all security checks. Frankly, there is more screening of refugees than ever happens to get on an airplane. Of course, yes, no system can be 100% foolproof. But if that is your standard, then you better shut down the entire airline industry, close the borders, and stop all international commerce and shipping. Every one of those has been the source of entry of people and are much easier ways to gain access to the U.S. Only upon passing all of these checks (which involve basically every agency of the government involved in terrorist identification) can the person actually be approved to travel.

Before departing, refugees sign a promissory note to repay the United States for their travel costs. This travel loan is an interest-free loan that refugees begin to pay back six months after arriving in the country.

Once the VOLAG is notified of the travel plans, it must arrange for the reception of refugees at the airport and transportation to their housing at their final destination.
This process from start to finish averages 18 to 24 months, but I have seen it take years.

The reality is that about half of the refugees are children, another quarter are elderly. Almost all of the adults are either moms or couples coming with children. Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the proposed ceiling is 85,000. We have been averaging about 70,000 a year for the last number of years. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)

Over one-third of all refugee arrivals (35.1 percent, or 24,579) in FY 2015 came from the Near East/South Asia—a region that includes Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.
Another third of all refugee arrivals (32.1 percent, or 22,472) in FY 2015 came from Africa.
Over a quarter of all refugee arrivals (26.4 percent, or 18,469) in FY 2015 came from East Asia — a region that includes China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)

Finally, the process in Europe is different. I would be much more concerned that terrorists are infiltrating the European system because they are not nearly so extensive and thorough in their process.

The Conversation on Immigration

We need to have a conversation about immigration. Now both my maternal and paternal side of the family were immigrants. They were proud of being here and becoming citizens and learning English. Both sides of this controversy are adamant about how they feel. I think it is important to discuss this concept. The question about legal and illegal immigration is a hot button for many Americans and for people from other countries.

America is not the only country dealing with this question. These conflicts have happened not only here but in the European Union. In the spring of 2011, Tunisians fled the revolution in their country and landed in Ventimiglia in southern Italy. Italians resented the refugees sleeping in train stations and the streets, and Italy and France argued about which country should absorb these people. In Denmark violence has occurred between Danes and Palestinian and Somali youth. They were fighting about conflicting views of integration. At the present moment in history, economic and social/cultural problems with immigration have outstripped the government polices and citizens’ abilities to handle them.

Population growth and the changes in the racial and ethnic composition of countries are reflected in the population statistics for the United States and the European Union. According to the 2010 census, in the United States with its population of 313,074,000, approximately 38 million , or 12 per cent of the population, are foreign-born; another 11 percent are native-born as of 2009. Out of every five people, one is either a first-or second-generation U.S. citizen. In 2010, 34 percent of this group of legal immigrations came from China, India, Philippines, Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador. In the European Union with a population of 502.52 million, the total number of non-nationals (or illegalswas 32.5 million persons representing 6.5 of the EU population.


In the United States, the effort to control this volume of immigration through legislation and physical restraint has a problematic history. The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 repealed the 1924 Immigration Act and ended the ban on Asian immigrants, but it established a quota system by which immigrants were limited by national origin, race, and ancestry. Then in 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments ended a first-come, first-served system, and gave preference to uniting families and establishing numerical restrictions according to  the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act attempted to fix the problem of the large number of illegal immigrants by granting permanent resident status to those who had lived and worked in the United States since 1982; but it failed to establish a workable system for managing further illegal immigration. The number of immigrants now living in the United States is somewhere around 11.2 million and approximately 80 percent are Latin American.

So this is a global problem and it is a significant one here in America. We constantly come up against the problems created by having huge numbers of illegals. I feel that we can’t deny their children an education or medical care, but these are very expensive and we have native born children who aren’t getting a good education or the medical care that they need. There is controversy over the Food Stamps and Medicare they often need. There are only so many funds available. So as concerned Americans, we have to think about not just the fact that people are here illegally, but our moral and ethical duty to fellow human beings and children of God. This is where the discussion hits triggers in people. So let’s start talking about this issue and I invite input from all over the world.


Let’s talk about where we all stand and what is as fair to everyone as is possible. There has to be an intelligent answer that will serve the needs of all of the people who want or need to start over in another country for financial or political reasons.