Friday, May 25, 2007

More About the Immigration Bill

Read "Worker Visas Intensify Debate on Immigration: Skilled Foreigners Embraced, Envied" by Pamela Constable, The Washington Post, May 25, 2007.

The draft legislation would increase the ceiling on new H-1B professional visas, which allow one- to six-year stays, from 65,000 to 115,000 a year. New H-1B visa holders now account for only 0.07 percent of the total U.S. workforce and that 57 percent of them have advanced degrees. Foreign students are exempt from visa ceilings if they have a graduate degree from a U.S. institution.

Read "Point system is key to immigration overhaul: Debate centers on how much weight should be allocated to family ties, skills, languages" by Carolyn Lochhead, The Sand Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2007.
A Canadian-style point system at the center of a controversial new immigration overhaul could transform the ethnic and social composition of the United States in decades to come, but such a change hinges on the details expected to emerge this week from intense closed-door negotiations between the White House and key senators in both parties.

In concept, a point system that awards visas on the basis of such factors as education, age, job skills and English proficiency could mark a radical change from the current system that awards the vast majority of the 1 million legal permanent residence visas, or green cards, on the basis of a foreigner's family ties to relatives already in the United States.

Depending on how a point system is constructed, a Ghanaian physician fluent in English could get priority to enter the country, for example, over a Spanish-speaking hotel maid from Guatemala whose brother is a U.S. citizen.
Comment: It is too bad that the legislation seeking to deal with illegal immigrants and to strengthen the borders against illegal immigration is considered in the same bill with the legislation on H-1B visas and the formula for legal immigration. Both are important pieces of legislation, but the hot button issue of the illegals distracts our attention from the critical issue of how the population of this nation is to grow in the future.

As readers of this blog know, I prefer we bring in people who can help this economy. I worry that as the baby boomers age, with a low birth rate, and as longevity increases, we will have a smaller portion of the population working to support the whole population. Indeed, the cost to the economy of the older population will continue to increase.

Globalization will continue, and we need knowledge workers to continue to provide a competitive advantage in an international knowledge economy. Thus, I hope that the Congress will pass and the President will sign legislation that helps build that force of knowledge workers. My smart, well educated friends from Ghana would be a great asset to the economy, as would my smart, well educated friends from Latin America.

Here is a negative study on high tech immigration by the Washington Center for Immigration Studies: "Low Wages for Low Skills: New Report Corrects Misconceptions About High-Tech Visa"

Here is a more positive National Foundation for American Policy Policy Brief: "H-1B Visas, Enforcement , Outsourcing and U.S. Workers: An H-1B Primer"

Check out the Reports and Studies from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


Glenn Hyman said...

I am surprised that we are not hearing much debate about how increasing professional visas to the USA causes a brain drain in other countries. I don't doubt that we need that talent in the USA. But the developing countries where these people leave from need it more. This must be a huge driver of inequalities between countries.

John Daly said...

Glenn, you are right that the brain gain in the United States is ofter the obverse of the brain drain in other countries. I don't really object to a contest among nations to attract the best and the brightest, especially if it is based on creating conditions in which those people can accomplish most.

I would point out, that there is also a phenomenon that I have termed the "virtual brain drain". Getting the B&Bs in India or Africa to work on problems of the United States via the Internet may effectively remove them from working on the problems of their own nations. Note, for example, that we pay very good people abroad to tutor our high school kids via the Internet (I understand the going rate is $8/hour.

There is also an unfortunate tendency in many poor countries to spend scarce resources to train people and then not use them in the work for which they have been trained. There have been too many scientists working as taxi drivers and unions of unemployed doctors in the world. I think it is a positive good for the B&Bs to escape such places and go to countries where their skills and education will be used. (On the other hand, there are also too many skilled professionals in paraprofessional jobs in the United States due to restrictions on the opportunities offered, and due to the fact that we offer paraprofessionals a better life here than their own nations offer to professionals. Still, I hate to see the waste of expertise here due to the protectionism of professional organizations.)

In any case, my altruism clashes with my enlightened self interest.

Anonymous said...

How much effect will a change in U.S. policy have on the migration of knowledge workers out of developing nations? Will those who can not come to the United States stay at home, or will they move to European or Asian-Pacific nations to find better economic opportunities? If the problem is brain underutilization and brain push rather than brain pull, poor countries will not be saved from brain drain by a decrease in U.S. brain gain. Rather the United States would simply be giving up a competitive advantage in the globalizing knowledge economy to our rich country rivals. Indeed, as the United States has restricted access to our universities for foreign students, I think enrollment of foreign students in Europe, Australia, and Japan has increased.