Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

Quote Of The Day

“The same Times article observes that even without the workplace raids, deportations have reached new heights for two years running at the direction of President Barack Obama — revealing (as if we didn’t already know) that virulent xenophobia is alive and well in the Democratic party too. This is, after all, the same Barack Obama who said in his acceptance speech at the 2008 convention that nobody benefits when an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. Well, sure. Nobody, that is, except the employer, his customers, and the illegal workers who, in Barack Obama’s universe, count as “nobody”.” — Steve Landsburg, professor of economics at the University of Rochester who blogs at The Big Questions

Quote Of The Day

“One of America’s sources of long-term strength is its ability to assimilate foreign talent, argues former Pentagon planning official Thomas Mahnken in the new issue of Saisphere, an obscure in-house publication of the international affairs school at the Johns Hopkins University. ”Such immigration could prove to be an enduring source of U.S. strategic advantage,” he writes. “How effective the United States proves in assimilating these new immigrants into the life of the nation will play a major role in determining its strategic effectiveness. The United States’ historical ability to assimilate has given it a distinct advantage over most other nations, which display little willingness to incorporate immigrants into the mainstream of their societies.”" — Thomas E Ricks, blogging at Foreign Policy

My Tentative View Of The Dream Act

A couple of people have asked me privately what I think about the Dream Act so I thought I would post it here as well. This has been my general reply to the question:

“There is a trade off (inverse relationship) between welfare and immigration. The more welfare, the less people are supportive of immigration. The more immigration, the less people are supportive of welfare. And the inverse relationship is especially strong when it’s immigrants themselves getting welfare. The more people perceive of immigrants coming for welfare checks, for example, the less they will be tolerant of more immigrants.

So by default, because I want more immigrants in the United States, I am generally against any welfare that seems to benefit immigrants. But the Dream Act is tricky. It’s not exactly welfare. It’s more like “level playing field” type welfare. Without it, you create this poor underclass with no real hope to get ahead. So I am torn. That makes me want to support it.

In the end, I don’t know which way I would ultimately vote on the legislation. I probably would vote for it, but very reluctantly. Instead, I wish this was more of a private charity kind of thing. Create a private charity that pays for immigrants education, for example. Forcing others to pay via taxes is only going to create backlash – and ultimately, harm other immigrants wishing to come to the United States.

Quote Of The Day

“Despite criticisms from Republican politicians about the White House’s overly lenient immigration policies, this administration is actually deporting more immigrants than the Bush administration.” — Catherine Rampell, writing in the New York Times economix section

Two Arguments In Favor Of Immigration

With the Arizona (anti-)immigration laws coming into affect soon, I have seen a lot of arguments in favor of immigration by those opposed to the Arizona laws. Most of them are either weak on economics, or miss the point completely. As a strong supporter of immigration, I thought I’d give two of my favorite arguments in favor of immigration.

My favorite argument in favor of immigration is that immigration is a huge boom to the immigrants themselves. It is, without a doubt, the strongest poverty alleviation tool in the history of man. Nothing else, no social program, no foreign aid, no economic reform, nothing, can so positively improve the lives of people like the freedom of an immigrant to move from an underdeveloped country to a developed country. The only way immigration is even debatable on humanitarian grounds is for one to assign almost zero importance to the welfare of the immigrants themselves. The argument is made stronger when you consider that immigrants also have a (small) net positive affect on the developed country. But even if you disagree, and believe that immigrants are a net loss to the receiving country, that loss would still have to be weighed against the overwhelming positive gain it gives immigrants themselves, almost always of which consist of the poorest members of the world. An impossible hurdle to overcome.

My second favorite argument in support of immigration, and this one specifically appeals to my libertarian and conservative friends, is that immigration is mutually exclusive from social programs. You have to pick: either an economy with abundant immigrants and low levels of social programs, or an economy with abundant social programs and low levels of immigrants. You can’t have both. Counter intuitive you say?

Not really:

Although poor immigrants are likely to support a bigger welfare state than natives do, the presence of poor immigrants makes natives turn against the welfare state. Why would this be? As a rule, people are happy to vote to “take care of their own”; that’s what the welfare state is all about. So when the poor are culturally very similar to the rich, as they are in places like Denmark and Sweden, support for the welfare state tends to be uniformly strong.

As the poor become more culturally distant from the rich, however, support for the welfare state becomes weaker and less uniform. There is good evidence, for example, that support for the welfare state is weaker in the U.S. than in Europe because our poor are disproportionately black. Since white Americans don’t identify with black Americans to the same degree that rich Danes identify with poor Danes, most Americans are comfortable having a relatively small welfare state.

Thus, even though black Americans are unusually supportive of the welfare state, it is entirely possible that the presence of black Americans has on net made our welfare state smaller by eroding white support for it.

Immigration is likely to have an even stronger counter-balancing effect on natives’ policy preferences because, as far as most Americans are concerned, immigrants from Latin American are much more of an “out-group” than American blacks. Faced with the choice to either cut social services or give “a bunch of foreigners” equal access, natives will lean in the direction of cuts. In fact, I can’t think of anything more likely to make natives turn against the welfare state than forcing them to choose between (a) helping no one, and (b) helping everyone regardless of national origin.

This is not something peculiar to one blogger, this is widely recognized on the left and the right. From Paul Krugman and Matthew Yglesias on the left, to Bryan Caplan, Jeffrey Miron and David Friedman (also here) on the right.

Taking the side of immigration over safety nets doesn’t just make sense economically, it also makes sense on humanitarian grounds. As Bryan Caplan explained:  “…unlike the welfare state, immigration has and continues to help absolutely poor people, not relatively poor Americans who are already at the 90th percentile of the world income distribution. There’s no reason for libertarians to make apologies to social democrats: Libertarian defenders of immigration are the real humanitarians in the world, and the laissez-faire era of open borders without the welfare state was America’s real humanitarian era.”

The Context Behind The Arizona Law

As explained by Rodolfo de la Garza, professor of political science at Columbia University:

In recent years, Texas has been all but closed off, and so is California. It’s created a funnel, so you’ve got an increased flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona. Phoenix, and Tucson to a lesser degree, have become the unwanted recipients of a lot of narco traffic and a tremendous increase in the amount of violence. Arizona also has a changing demography, so that you have a lot of Midwesterners flooding in—retirees, snowbirds, displaced unemployed people who have no history with the region. And you’ve got a division in the state between southern Arizona, a heavily Hispanic area, and the rest of the state, including Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix and Flagstaff, which historically had few Mexicans. And there’s an ethnic dimension to the crisis that’s powerful, real and historic. Combine those several factors and you create the conditions for conflict. You understand why Anglo Arizonans resent current conditions without in any way supporting their actions.

Full interview can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“But that’s why we shouldn’t have laws that enshrine any sort of profiling.  If the immigration problems in Arizona are really so serious that they merit deep intrusions upon the liberty of citizens who happen to resemble illegal immigrants, than they are serious enough to intrude on the liberty of everyone.  Don’t make the cops check the status of anyone who they “reasonably suspect” is illegal; make them check the status of everyone, no matter how blond-haired, blue-eyes, and fluent in standard American english they may be.  If you forget your license at home, the police detain you, just like they detain anyone of mexican descent, while someone fetches it.  If you can’t produce a birth certificate, passport, or similar, then you wait in the pokey until they can verify your legal status.  No police discretion.  No profiling. ” — Megan McArdle, on the Arizona immigration law

The Best Way To Help Haiti Victims

Paul Romer gives my preferred solution:

There is a natural complementary approach that is a much better bet than giving colonialism another chance–letting Haitians migrate somewhere with better governance and rules. This is the surest answer to the question posed in the beginning. It can give them access to the urban infrastructure, buildings, equipment, and the know-how that can support jobs in areas like garment assembly.

Immigration, like free trade, is the greatest poverty alleviation tool the world has ever seen.

The Future Of Immigration

From a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper:

This paper documents a stylized fact not well appreciated in the literature. The Third World has been undergoing an emigration life cycle since the 1960s, and, except for Africa, emigration rates have been level or even declining since a peak in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. The current economic crisis will serve only to accelerate those trends. The paper estimates the economic and demographic fundamentals driving these Third World emigration life cycles to the United States since 1970 — the income gap between the US and the sending country, the education gap between the US and the sending country, the poverty trap, the size of the cohort at risk, and migrant stock dynamics. It then projects the life cycle up to 2024. The projections imply that pressure on Third World emigration over the next two decades will not increase. It also suggests that future US immigrants will be more African and less Hispanic than in the past.

Link via Tyler Cowen who has more here.

The Protectionist And Anti-Immigration Congress

The Harvard Crimson reports:

Troubled financial institutions that recruit heavily from Harvard may soon face restrictions on hiring international students if they accepted federal bailout funding. Under a recently passed amendment to the federal stimulus bill, companies participating in the Troubled Assets Relief Program—a government financial-rescue plan implemented last fall—will face more restrictions in hiring H-1B visa holders, foreigners with at least a bachelor’s degree and “highly specialized knowledge” in a particular field.

Link via Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, here.

Anti-Immigration Surfaces

First it was “buy American only”, now its this:

While I think President Obama has been doing his best to keep the worst protectionist impulses in Congress out of his stimulus plan, the U.S. Senate unfortunately voted on Feb. 6 to restrict banks and other financial institutions that receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits known as H-1B visas.

The Democrat nativism is to hard to contain.

Update: Jagdish Bhagwati has more.

A Cure For Real Estate Markets Downturn

Given by Alan Greenspan:

“The most effective initiative, though politically difficult, would be a major expansion in quotas for skilled immigrants,” he said. The only sustainable way to increase demand for vacant houses is to spur the formation of new households. Admitting more skilled immigrants, who tend to earn enough to buy homes, would accomplish that while paying other dividends to the U.S. economy.

He estimates the number of new households in the U.S. currently is increasing at an annual rate of about 800,000, of whom about one third are immigrants. “Perhaps 150,000 of those are loosely classified as skilled,” he said. “A double or tripling of this number would markedly accelerate the absorption of unsold housing inventory for sale — and hence help stabilize prices.”

The full article (paid, WSJ) can be found here.

The More The Better

George Will makes the case for immigration we can all agree on:

Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting — often five or more years — for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America’s competitors.

Suppose a foreign government had a policy of sending workers to America to be trained in a sophisticated and highly remunerative skill at American taxpayers’ expense, and then forced these workers to go home and compete against American companies. That is what we are doing because we are too generic in defining the immigrant pool.

Barack Obama and other Democrats are theatrically indignant about U.S. companies that locate operations outside the country. But one reason Microsoft opened a software development center in Vancouver is that Canadian immigration laws allow Microsoft to recruit skilled persons it could not retain under U.S. immigration restrictions. Mr. Change We Can Believe In is not advocating the simple change — that added zero — and neither is Mr. Straight Talk.

John McCain’s campaign Web site has a spare statement on “immigration reform” that says nothing about increasing America’s intake of highly qualified immigrants. Obama’s site says only: “Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should.” “Where we can”? We can now.

The full post can be found here.

Krugman On Immigration

CATO’s Will Wilkinson, in discussing Paul Krugman’s recent book, writes:

In Krugman’s view, if the working class contains many members without the franchise, it is itself disenfranchised. So it is that Krugman pretty nearly celebrates one of the most shameful chapters in 20th century American politics: the progressive (read: “racist”) imposition of strict immigration controls to keep shifty Asians and dirty Italian anarchists off our shores.

Krugman says that “a more fully enfranchised population” was an “unintended consequence” of the Immigration Act, but the effect that Krugman celebrates was not at all unintended by Samuel Gompers and the AFL, perhaps the most powerful driving force behind the law. And it is an effect Krugman thinks we should consider intending: “The disenfranchisement effect is, however, something liberals need to think hard about when confronting questions about immigration reform,” he delicately puts it.

The full post can be found here.

Republicans And Immigration

John McCain, as everybody had been expecting, has officially clinched the Republican nomination. This just goes to show something I had believed all along: Republicans, as a whole,  are not anti-immigration.

The Republican relationship with immigration is a lot like the Democrat relationship to education – you have a few people that make alot of noise about the subject but in the end, nobody really cares. The fact that the most pro-immigration candidate has won the GOP primary and the most anti-immigration candidate dropped out early because of a lack of support testifies to that. Anybody who says otherwise just does not understand the GOP.

Quote Of The Day

“It’s not just that they’re brown; it’s that they’re brown and want to use your stuff. Let more people in, the argument goes, and they’ll end up on welfare, their kids crowding your schools, their parents crowding your hospitals. You could argue that the economic concerns are just masking mass racism, but that doesn’t explain why guest worker programs–which preclude the possibility of their beneficiaries ending up on the dole–poll so well. Committed xenophobes should be more consistent in their distaste for mixing with the Other.” — Kerry Howley, defending her support for a guest worker program