Iran engineer travel ban return to USA Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Les immigrés du Moyen-Orient, support de la compétitivité des USA

DUBAI – Dans un roman de science fiction de Robert A. Heinlein, "En terre étrangère" (Stranger in a Strange Land) publié en 1961, un linguiste musulman, le Dr Mahmoud, aide un homme élevé sur Mars à s'adapter à la vie aux USA. Il s'agit d'une fiction, mais le choix par l'auteur d'un musulman pour aider l'homme venu de Mars est ancré dans la réalité, car des chercheurs originaires du Moyen-Orient et d'Afrique du Nord participent depuis des décennies aux découvertes et aux innovations réalisées aux USA.

Avec deux collègues de l'Institut autrichien de technologie, Georg Zahradnik et Bernhard Dachs, j'ai entrepris récemment des recherches pour éclairer le rôle des personnes d'origine arabe, kurde, perse et turque dans le développement de la technologie américaine. Nous nous sommes appuyés pour cela sur les demandes de brevet déposées aux USA. Nous avons commencé notre travail après le décret présidentiel de Donald Trump interdisant l'entrée des USA aux citoyens de six pays à majorité musulmane (l'Iran, la Libye, la Somalie, le Soudan, la Syrie, le Yémen et l'Irak qui a été retiré de la liste par la suite).

Les résultats ne nous ont pas surpris. Mais ils ont de quoi inquiéter les dirigeants qui doivent veiller à ce que les USA restent leaders en matière d'innovation. En 2013, sur 41,3 millions d'immigrés, les USA comptaient environ un million d'immigrés en provenance du Moyen-Orient et d'Afrique du Nord, soit 2,5% du total. 43% de ceux qui étaient âgés de plus de 25 ans étaient au minimum titulaire d'une licence universitaire, contre 28% pour l'ensemble des immigrés et 30% des Américains de la même tranche d'âge nés aux USA.

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