Immigration, What Is It Good For?

 

No, my answer is not “nothing”, as the lyric might suggest. But this is a basic question we seldom grapple with, other than in the most vaporous, cliche-ridden terms.

A comment by Guruforhire in my previous thread made me think of this:

I think first we need to sit down and examine the entire existential purpose of immigration and vicariously immigration policy.

Why do we allow any immigration at all? What’s the point of it?

As for me, I see no grand imperative for immigration — a modern nation doesn’t actually need any at all. (I wrote a whole book on this.) But there are discrete categories of people the case for whose admission is so compelling we should let them in anyway. That would include the following:

1) The foreign spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens (Reason: the nuclear family is the core institution of society.) This is actually a lot of people, 350,000 in 2012, accounting for one-third of legal immigration.

2) Genuine Einsteins, the top people on the planet in their fields. (Reason: They represent a tiny number of people who can nevertheless significantly raise the productive capacity of the nation.) If you pick through the existing immigration categories for such people, you get maybe 25,000 people a year.

3) Some share of real, individual refugees who can’t stay where they are and have literally nowhere else to go. (Reason: International treaty obligations.) Say, maybe another 25,000 people a year.

So that’s about 400,000 immigrants a year, still more than any other country but less than half the 1 million-plus we take now. But in a sense, the number should derive from the rationale. What are your reasons for admitting immigrants, and what level of immigration would those reasons translate to?

There are 102 comments.

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  1. True Blue Inactive
    True Blue
    @TrueBlue

    What’s it good for?  Why to fundamentally transform America of course!  Why are you asking this question?  Are you some kind of racist?

    • #1
  2. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Supplies guys like you with a paycheck.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I’m willing to include others who can pay their own way.  For instance, businessmen expanding or relocating their businesses from another country and bringing capital with them. 

    Sub-supergenius entrepreneurs.  Perhaps this is what your category two really is or related to it, since there would not be anywhere near 25,000 Einsteins per year.  These people may be gifted or geniuses, or maybe they are just hard workers, but what they touch turns to gold.  So long as they are doing so legally, I want that sort of new blood wherever I am. 

    True specialists to deal with shortages, for example, Catholic Priests.  I have heard that this is one job that Americans no longer want to do.  I do not think that IT is a job Americans won’t do, they just won’t do it at the price of some of those brought in on H1-B visas.  If we can’t find a way to restrict it to true shortages, let’s not do it at all.

    I also think that a values test should be involved.  We have enough communists and socialists.  We need more people with a work ethic.

    • #3
  4. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    ^ Seconded.

    • #4
  5. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    I am an immigrant to this country, so my views might be biased. But I agree overall with the premise that unrestricted immigration isn’t the way to go.

    I’d say the main characteristic of immigration to the US in earlier days was that people paid their own way, and made their own way. I’d say that today the same principles ought to apply: if you can make your own way, you may. 

    Without needing to figure out “who” is “needed”, and at what quota, there are simpler ways for figuring that out to attract talent. Universities and companies already…pay…for bringing foreigners into the US. Rather, in the schools sense, the foreigners themselves pay for their own tuition (or in the case of many grad programs, the school pays for them), while companies pay for sponsoring their residency status. 

    So I think we already have a good way of figuring out “who” we want at the high end of the scale. We don’t for the low end, and I’m ok with the approach of closing down the border to illegals as much as possible, while expanding work visas. 

    But on the other end, I think some “conservatives” do get it wrong on the high end too, assuming that “Americans will do those jobs”. It’s not a matter of Americans not wanting to do the STEM jobs. There is a genuine shortage, and there are genuine benefits to attracting the top talent from the rest of the world (and keeping them here). Just look at any grad program at any US research university: 30+% are always foreign students.

    • #5
  6. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Arahant: since there would not be anywhere near 25,000 Einsteins per year. 

     Well here’s the problem with that. Our H1B caps are too low. While not everyone who is here on H1B is an “Einstein” or “genius”,  they are very talented and very beneficial to our economy. 

    Overall the concept of having an artificial and random “cap” on how much talent you can import into the US is… counterproductive. If companies want to pay for their residency, why should we stop them? 

    On the other hand, far too many of the foreign students who study here, and want to stay here, are forced to go back. That’s a lot of wasted potential send…back to China or India…when we could have benefited from those people. 

    A simple solution would be: no caps; pay a certain fee yearly fee and you get to stay; pay a bigger fee and you get permanent residency;  pay an even bigger fee and you get citizenship. That way, anyone who figures that their economic benefits of staying in the US outweigh the cost of the fee, will pay. They can even borrow money to pay for it, which would be even better sine there would be a second set of evaluators to make sure they are worth it. 

    Treat it as an investment. 

    • #6
  7. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    :(

    • #7
  8. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    AIG:

    So I think we already have a good way of figuring out “who” we want at the high end of the scale. We don’t for the low end, and I’m ok with the approach of closing down the border to illegals as much as possible, while expanding work visas.

    But on the other end, I think some “conservatives” do get it wrong on the high end too, assuming that “Americans will do those jobs”. It’s not a matter of Americans not wanting to do the STEM jobs. There is a genuine shortage, and there are genuine benefits to attracting the top talent from the rest of the world (and keeping them here). Just look at any grad program at any US research university: 30+% are always foreign students.

    The STEM shortage does not seem to actually exist.

    • #8
  9. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    wmartin: The STEM shortage does not seem to actually exist.

     I don’t see any evidence in that link that says so, other than an opinion of the author. 

    The argument put forth there doesn’t hold water for one important reason: look at grad school enrollments.Why are 30+% of grad school students foreign? (that’s not counting foreign-born, but US residents or citizens, like myself)

    Second, where’s the evidence of “driving down wages”? How much is a MS Software Engineer paid at Microsoft, right out of college? How much is a PhD in Computer Science paid at Microsoft, right out of college? (You don’t want to know!)

    And if I may make a rather unpopular observation: I do indeed see a general lack of interest, or outright disdain, in large sections of the “native”(i.e. white rural middle class) US population towards pushing their kids towards these high levels of education in these fields. At the risk of sounding like Amy Chua. 

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    AIG: pay an even bigger fee and you get citizenship.

    This one I shall slightly disagree on.  The granting of citizenship should not be about money so much as values.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    AIG: And if I may make a rather unpopular observation: I do indeed see a general lack of interest, or outright disdain, in large sections of the “native”(i.e. white rural middle class) US population towards pushing their kids towards these high levels of education in these fields.

    I reckon we could find evidence of that without looking too hard.  Americans have always had a certain suspicion of education compared to hard work or business accomplishments.  In George W. Bush’s first run for Congress, he was slaughtered for being a “college boy.”

    • #11
  12. user_231912 Inactive
    user_231912
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Does anyone really want to imagine some of our most vital, entrepreneurial industries (high tech, energy, etc.,) without immigrants or the children of immigrants?  A “mature” society usually means a decaying one.  

    The area that we have well and truly failed as a society is insisting that people should come to America to be American.  This is a cultural failing, not per se a legal failing.  We should not be the polyglot boarding house for the nations of the world, to paraphrase TR.  The melting pot, not the salad bowl is the metaphor we must strive for.  Each immigrant should add to the richness of American life, and in turn be influenced by the greatness of our ideals; freedom, optimism, the rule of law, representative government, merit-based advancement, limited government, etc.  The culture, not laws, will win out.

    From a policy perspective, our current laws (and the enforcement thereof) are a horrid shambles.  It’s far too hard for people that want to come (or stay) here to follow the rules (especially if they were educated here) and contribute to society and far too easy for those who don’t follow the rules to stay under the radar.

    • #12
  13. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    AIG:

    wmartin: The STEM shortage does not seem to actually exist.

    Second, where’s the evidence of “driving down wages”?

    And if I may make a rather unpopular observation: I do indeed see a general lack of interest, or outright disdain, in large sections of the “native”(i.e. white rural middle class) US population towards pushing their kids towards these high levels of education in these fields. At the risk of sounding like Amy Chua.

     Why on Earth would a kid from the U.S. put in the time to get a STEM degree when the news has spread that at age 35 (when you are finally in position to make some real money, provide for a family) you will get kicked out and replaced by an indentured servant on an H-1B Visa? The fact that we still graduate so many is what is incredible.

    Teitelbaum has run the numbers and says that STEM wages have dropped, even while tech companies claim they need immigrants to fill a shortage. I see no reason to doubt him.

    • #13
  14. True Blue Inactive
    True Blue
    @TrueBlue

    One thing I really don’t like about our immigration policy is that it is indifferent to how well the immigrant will assimilate to American culture.  Someone from Switzerland will have an easier time becoming American than someone from Mongolia.  That’s not racism, it is a fact.  That should count for something shouldn’t it?

    Or do our political leaders dislike America so much, that this consideration doesn’t concern them?

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    True Blue: That should count for something shouldn’t it?

     It used to count.

    • #15
  16. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    wmartin: I see no reason to doubt him.

     There’s plenty of reasons to doubt him, as there are mountains of studies that show the “gap”. And there’s obvious evidence of the gap the more fine-grained you look at the STEM’s themselves (i.e. separating them out by majors, and by degree levels). And there’s even more conclusive evidence depending on the…trend…you look at (i.e. they may be flat now during the recession, but that doesn’t mean very much).

    From 1950 to 2010 the employment in Sciences and Engineering has grown about 15 times faster than the US population. They have much higher compensations than non-STEM degree holders or non-degree holders, lower unemployment figures than both non-STEM degree holders and non-degree holders etc etc. All these are indicators that the demand for them is higher than in other fields. 

    As for the “news” that you’re going to be replaced by a foreign-born H1B holder, the “news” is wrong. It’s more expensive for a company to hire an H1B holder (to the tune of $10k a year in fees). 99% of them, of course, are US educated (not imported directly from abroad). But the key here is that there’s no evidence that they are “substitutes”. They are “complements”. 

    I agree with Brian McMenomy: can you really imagine the US high-tech economy without the all the “foreigners” it has attracted? Impossible! And ultimately, that’s how America has…always…done it. We’ve always attracted the top talent from around the world. 

    • #16
  17. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    True Blue: That’s not racism, it is a fact.  That should count for something shouldn’t it? Or do our political leaders dislike America so much, that this consideration doesn’t concern them?

     Well, lets think of it this way: how are you going to tell who will assimilate, and who won’t? How are you going to tell when they will assimilate? Should they assimilate in 1 year? In 25? In the next generation? What do you measure “assimilation”? 

    Here’s another thought: How long did it take for the Scandinavians of Minnesota to “assimilate”? What about the Italians? Was it easier for a Scott to assimilate in America in 1890, or an Italian? What difference does that make, today? 

    Also, is the the “problem” of the immigrants, or is this a problem caused by the white middle class Wisconsin State educated 25 year old teacher with a severe white-guilt complex who tells kids that they should not assimilate? 

    Also, does this mean we should sacrifice our economic well-being because the Chinese PhD that we educated, wants to speak Chinese at home? Is that the solution?

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    AIG,

    Just curious, where are you originally from?  I don’t think it matters for this or any other conversation that we’ve been involved in together, but I am curious.  Feel free not to answer, though.

    • #18
  19. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Arahant:

    AIG,

    Just curious, where are you originally from? I don’t think it matters for this or any other conversation that we’ve been involved in together, but I am curious. Feel free not to answer, though.

     The clue is in my profile picture. 

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Not much of a clue for me, unless that is supposed to be one of the bunkers built by a certain mad, Communist dictator.  Even blowing it up, I’m not seeing much other than a (concrete?) dome with openings on both sides and a stairway in the back.

    • #20
  21. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    The legitimate purpose of immigration is to bring in enough workers to support the current and near future population drawing social security checks, since this population didn’t produce enough babies themselves.

    • #21
  22. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    True Blue:

    Or do our political leaders dislike America so much, that this consideration doesn’t concern them?

     In a word, yes.

    • #22
  23. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    AIG:

     

    There’s plenty of reasons to doubt him, as there are mountains of studies that show the “gap”.

    From 1950 to 2010 the employment in Sciences and Engineering has grown about 15 times faster than the US population. They have much higher compensations than non-STEM degree holders or non-degree holders, lower unemployment figures than both non-STEM degree holders and non-degree holders etc etc. All these are indicators that the demand for them is higher than in other fields.

    I agree with Brian McMenomy: can you really imagine the US high-tech economy without the all the “foreigners” it has attracted? Impossible! And ultimately, that’s how America has…always…done it. We’ve always attracted the top talent from around the world.

     Can you point me to some of those studies?  And is 1950 to 2010 really a meaningful time span? (I mean, the 50’s and 60’s were the era before the deleterious effects of the 1965 immigration bill began to be felt).

    As for Brian McMenomy’s question…Can I imagine the high-tech economy without immigrants? Well, immigrants from where, and when did they come?

    • #23
  24. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    AIG:

     

    Well, lets think of it this way: how are you going to tell who will assimilate, and who won’t? How are you going to tell when they will assimilate? Should they assimilate in 1 year? In 25? In the next generation? What do you measure “assimilation”?

    Also, does this mean we should sacrifice our economic well-being because the Chinese PhD that we educated, wants to speak Chinese at home? Is that the solution?

     A good rule of thumb would be that an immigrant group should not be still be lagging well behind in the fourth generation. In other words, they should not be like hispanics.

    The Chinese PhD (on whom our economic well-being does not depend) may speak Chinese at home if he wishes, but business in the public square is transacted in English. A nation needs a common language and a common culture.

    • #24
  25. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Most of the country doesn’t give a crap about immigration. They’re just ain’t enough of them and they stay in the shadows. We’ve got more immediate problems.

    If it wasn’t for a few wealthy well connected “donors” we wouldn’t be wasting so many calories on this.

    Well respected commentators, producing thoughtful essays forces this issue to the top when there are more important topics. It’s being used as a diversion. Quit discussing it.

    Create jobs for citizens, hire drivers to bus illegals back home to reunite with their family.

    • #25
  26. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Arahant:

    Not much of a clue for me, unless that is supposed to be one of the bunkers built by a certain mad, Communist dictator. Even blowing it up, I’m not seeing much other than a (concrete?) dome with openings on both sides and a stairway in the back.

     Albania.

    • #26
  27. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Hoxha’s pimples.  I just found the original picture the avatar seems to be from.  Thanks, Mike.  That was my best guess, but the confirmation is appreciated.

    • #27
  28. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Arahant:

    Hoxha’s pimples. I just found the original picture the avatar seems to be from. Thanks, Mike. That was my best guess, but the confirmation is appreciated.

     You’re welcome.  The fact that 700,000 of those things were built just beggars belief!

    • #28
  29. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Clearly some residents benefit from immigration while others lose out because of it.  Assuming that all immigration has to be good for everybody or bad for everybody doesn’t make sense.  Right now it seems to be good for people who have more political power than those for whom it’s bad.  (You all know who you are.)

    • #29
  30. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    AIG

    As for the “news” that you’re going to be replaced by a foreign-born H1B holder, the “news” is wrong. It’s more expensive for a company to hire an H1B holder (to the tune of $10k a year in fees). 99% of them, of course, are US educated (not imported directly from abroad). But the key here is that there’s no evidence that they are “substitutes”. They are “complements”.

    Ahhhhhh…maybe not.
    I heard a call on a talk radio program from an Atlanta computer programmer. He had been laid off from his job and replaced by an H-1B worker (from Ireland?) being paid 2/3 of what he had been paid.

    I also read a comment by a Brit who had lived through most of the NHS history. He said that if Obamacare is fully implemented, he could guarantee one thing: your primary care physician’s first language will not be English.

    • #30

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