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Immigration debate

June 19, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 25

In her editorial "Who is America?" Pamela Zurer fails to make the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants (C&EN, April 17, page 3). She closes the piece urging us not to demonize people for not being lucky enough to be born here. There are not many of us who demonize conscientious, hardworking immigrants who came here legally. However, illegal immigration should rightfully be demonized. Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not. Either we have a border, or we do not. America is a sovereign nation, and we have the right to say who can and cannot enter this country. If we have no border, we have no country.

Dave Harris
Chesterfield, Mo.

As a chemist and first-generation Vietnamese American I respectfully disagree with the editorial "Who Is America?" Our people have risked their lives crossing the Pacific hoping to reach the U.S. Most come not for economic reasons, but to avoid political persecution. Many were turned away after spending years in refugee camps because they were found not qualified for political refugee status.

Many American citizens who came from other countries, and who are now working hard and paying taxes, would love to have other relatives and friends join us in the U.S., but we have to go through a most agonizing process to sponsor only immediate family members.

What makes illegal immigrants such as those from Mexico more special than people who could not as easily cross the border to come here?

I am not at all nervous about having Chinese or other foreign students getting professional positions here. The professional-level jobs have become very specialized and America just cannot produce qualified workers fast enough. I hate to think what could happen to this country if highly educated or highly talented people are not allowed to immigrate here.

So if low-paid laborers are what we need now, how about letting people in based on their qualifications and giving priority to American citizens who want to sponsor their relatives? Many details will need to be considered and ironed out, but letting all illegal immigrants have rights and privileges like the rest of us is just not fair.

Thuy Ai Nguyen
Middlebranch, Ohio

Hooray for Zurer and her compassionate and principled stand! You may well get some flak for it, but I commend you for focusing on the most important principle of human rights: that they apply to all humans no matter where they were born.

Philip Boncer
San Diego

Zurer notes that although ACS has programs to encourage minorities to enter the profession, the fear of dwindling job opportunities "can manifest itself as a reluctance to welcome newcomers." I suggest that it is not the lack of a welcome that discourages minorities, but the dwindling job opportunities.

Contrast the situation in chemistry with that of pharmacy. In recent years, I noticed that many of the best students in my organic chemistry classes at Howard University−where the students are nearly all African American, African, or Caribbean−were asking for letters of recommendation for pharmacy school, rather than for medical or graduate school. My efforts to convince the brightest student I can remember to consider a career in chemistry were unsuccessful because he was strongly motivated to become a pharmacist. I do not have statistics on gender, race, or national origin of new pharmacists, but I can report that when I look at the people working as pharmacists in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, I see men and women of all races, whose families have been in the U.S. for many generations or who are recent immigrants.

Why are students seeking careers in pharmacy, rather than chemistry? Perhaps there is a clue in a United Press International news report dated April 17: "Starting salaries for community pharmacists have reached $90,000 per year, a recent survey found. And pharmacy schools report that graduates have no trouble landing numerous lucrative offers before they get their degrees."

Martin Feldman
Silver Spring, Md.


May 22, page 34. The instrument pictured should have been identified as a Dionex high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system, not a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer.

May 29, page 11. Dow Chemical's R&D spending for 2005 was $1.1 billion.


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