Our crazy immigration policy

Ezra Klein had a really nice column on immigration earlier this week.  A couple points really stuck with me– most prominently, we should modify our policies in ways that will be most beneficial to our country.  Well, duh, of course, but right now policy does not really reflect our nations’ best interests.  That was one point where I really agreed with David Frum when he came to speak at NCSU last semester.   The key point on the matter:

Because of a 1965 law, our immigration system is based around family unification. More than 65 percent of visas are for purposes of bringing family members to the United States. Only 15 percent are for economic reasons. As Darrell West of the Brookings Institution writes in his book “Brain Gain,” this means that immigrant families, rather than current policymakers, decide who enters the country.

That’s nuts. Our immigration policy should be primarily oriented around our national goals. And one goal is to have the world’s most innovative and dynamic economy.

What’s incredibly stupid is how we treat highly-skilled, highly educated foreign workers.  We should take all that we can:

But since 2001, we’ve gone from offering 195,000 high-skill visas to about 65,000 today. In fact, we let top students come for college or graduate school – and then we don’t let them stay. “We should staple a green card to PhDs in science and technology,” West says with a sigh. “They’d like to stay here!”

Our good friends of Canada are very likely to be sent back their soon against their will because the company where the guy was working– and sponsoring his work visa– has gone under.  We’re talking about a guy with an amazing skill set– PhD in physiology with top-notch statistical abilities.  There is absolutely no way sending this man and his family back to Canada is good for him or for America.

You should really read the whole column.  It’s short, and how’s this for a great intro:

I have a plan that will raise wages, lower prices, increase the nation’s stock of scientists and engineers, and maybe even create the next Google. Better yet, this plan won’t cost the government a dime. In fact, it’ll save money. A lot of money. But few politicians are going to want to touch it.

Here’s the plan: More immigration. A pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants. And a recognition that immigration policy is economic policy and needs to be thought of as such.

See what I meant about politicians not liking it?

Damn, do I so wish politics in this country was rational.  Sadly, we’re dealing with humans, though.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Our crazy immigration policy

  1. John says:

    …and maybe if we staple green cards to PhDs professors and other highly skilled workers will truly feel the effects of globalization and the downward pressure on their wages and job security. We’ll be able to replace retiring tenured professors with brilliant graduates who will work harder and longer for less with the understanding that they can be removed at any given point if the politics of the university or society differ with the conclusions of their research. It’ll be a brave new world!

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