Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – How sensitive is the debate about providing visas to help more foreign high-tech workers gain entry to the U.S.

Almost deadly.

That’s the frightening word from Triangle serial tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, who is an outspoken proponent of encouraging expansion of the U.S. visa program and more retention of foreign-born entrepreneurs.

In an e-mail to friends and colleagues over the weekend, Wadhwa shared the scary news that speakers at an immigration conference last week received very threatening letters. Wadhwa, who is now an academic with Duke University and UC-Berkley, delivered the lunchtime keynote.

“As I mentioned in my last email, I gave the lunchtime keynote at the conference in Seattle on Thursday,”  Wadhwa wrote. “One thing I didn’t say in my e-mail, at the request of the FBI, was that speakers to this event received letters telling them that if they attended ‘the biggest gathering of traitors of the century,’ they would do this ‘at their own peril.’”

To bolster the threat, Wadhwa pointed out:

“Attached to the letters were M1 bullets (a carbine used in semi-automatic weapons by government and paramilitary forces). Security at the event included FBI agents and Seattle police in plain clothes, and a big bouncer at the door.”

How crazy must people be? This is absurd.

“Sadly, this is what the debate has descended to—with the constant anti-immigrant drumbeat on talk radio and nativist/protectionist clouds circling Washington, D.C.,” Wadhwa added.

“You have senators and congressmen from both sides voting, unanimously, to fly drones (like those that they use to kill terrorists in Pakistan) to protect the U.S. border. And they are funding these by taxing companies that Senator Schumer (D-NY) says are Indian ‘chop-shops.’

“Interestingly, the “chop shops” they choose to tax are amongst the best-managed corporations in the world—they lead in workforce-development practices (), , and fiscal management.”

The wear and tear of this terrible economy is ripping at people’s very souls. The high-tech visa debate has been going on for years. The economy is making the debate even more intense.

Let us all pray that this doesn’t turn deadly.

(By the way, The Skinny shared this e-mail with readers only after receiving permission from Vivek, who is a frequent contributor to LTW, TechCrunch and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.)

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