The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Skilled Immigrants Help Make Us All Rich

Last week a WRM essay on America’s immigrants appeared in the WSJ. “The world’s best, the world’s hardest-working and the world’s most ambitious are still coming our way,” he wrote.

A story at Bloomberg Businessweek backs up this point. America’s immigrants, writes Elizabeth Dwoskin, are responsible for some of the most innovative, cool, useful, and lucrative stuff that gets invented in the U.S.:

…more than three-quarters of patents from America’s top ten patent-producing universities, including MIT, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were the result of breakthroughs by immigrants. Those universities produced 1,466 patents—a fraction of the total awarded—but many were in such cutting-edge fields as information technology and molecular biology.

Some of the patents for work done by immigrants are on the cutting edge of twenty-first century tech and industry:

…a Stanford student built a camera that lets users change what’s in focus after snapping a shot; Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers invented a tiny, foldable car; and a patent was awarded for devising a metal that is as strong as steel but can be molded like plastic.

America’s inventive and talented immigrants are some of our greatest treasures. The sooner we change the policies that impose tight limits on the number of highly-skilled immigrants who can come to our stay in the U.S., the better.

Short sighted know-nothings see skilled entrants as competing with white collar native born Americans for a limited number of jobs: the idea seems to be that there is only so much dog food in the dog dish, and letting more foreign dogs in just means less food for the rest.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. These skilled immigrants create jobs and create opportunities for the rest of us; their ideas, their inventions, their entrepreneurial drive make everyone richer.

There is in VM’s view a reasonable case for reviewing the levels of unskilled immigration from time to time, and certainly for blocking illegal migration. But when it comes to highly skilled and unusually talented people, we say let it rip.

Open the doors; let freedom ring.

Published on July 4, 2012 3:00 pm
  • Jorge

    That’s why we should build a wall, and change birthright citizenship. The Mexican wave of the past 30 years was unique as it was the first immigrant group that was not wanted. Whatever problems we had with past immigrant groups, they came here legally. Plus they were poor, unskilled, and academically lazy. We should let any immigrant come here who as 1 year cash reserves and a job offer.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Jorge: Actually, many past waves were “not wanted”, and ended up conferring great benefits on the US. The great Irish wave of the 1840s and 1850s was “not wanted”; so were many of the waves from eastern and southern Europe. Both the make up of the Mexican wave and the reactions to it are far from unprecedented in American history. So far, it’s all worked out pretty well.

  • Winston

    USA must follow Canadian immigration system. Close the borders and import skilled immigrants.

  • Jorge

    @WRM “Not Wanted” means illegal. Those past waves you mentioned came here in the legal framework of the given time. They were “legal” immigrants.

    P.S. My grandparents immigrated from Mexico in the 1940s. They got their papers and did things the right way. I live in the Fresno, CA and the illegals are driving down the wages of all the farm workers around here. There are 2nd/3rd generation mexican farm workers who make less than parents because the growers can hire these illegals cheaper.

    Also, Teenagers can’t get a job. My little girl moved back home this summer from college, and couldn’t even get a babysitting job. When I was growing up back in the 80s any 16 year old could get a summer job. I use to clean dishes at a local Italian restaurant in high school. It was great!

    Unemployment here is 16%. My guess is the unemployment for the young is 40%. It’s all about supply and demand. 1/3 of the prisoners in our jails are illegals. Most of the kids of these illegal immigrants don’t work or study hard. 50% of the Latinas are pregnant in their teens. We are lucky if half graduate high school, and those who do have skill levels equivalent to that of a 9th grader if we are lucky. And has a latino, its a real shame. The Kenyans and filipinos immigrants who live in Fresno don’t give us any of these problems.

    The rest of the country needs to live with the illegal problem to see how its destroying the local communities here.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Jorge: Like you, the overwhelming majority of Mexican immigrants living in this country are here legally. I agree that the borders need to be controlled and that the government’s failure to handle this situation has left many local communities holding the bag. But it’s important not to let the idea stand that Mexican=illegal. It’s not true, and its damaging to many good people working hard to build a place for themselves here in the US.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead

    “Open the doors; let freedom ring.”

    It appears that Mead believes that so-called skilled immigration is unqualified good.

    As typical for immigration worshippers what is skilled immigrant is never defined, one has to believe religiously that all immigrants with BA or BS are Einsteins or Google’s Brin (Immig Service holds BA/BS degree as eligible for Genius visa).

    Mead and his fanatical friends at WSJ believe that immigration, in Mead’s case restricted to BS holders and in case of WSJ ideologues totally without any limits, is an absolute unqualified good for this country.

    A practical question:

    What are the numerical limits, if any, we should have?

    WSJ immigration commissars at least are honest enough: NO LIMITS WHATSOVER.
    If 50 Million Chinese plus 50 Million misc others decide to come every year for the next 20 years, let them come, the more the merrier.

    The G W Bush first immigration plan (2005 proposal) was based on WSJ Open Border dream. It would give a visa to any foreigner who outbids an American for a job. And would let an immigrant to bring his extended family. What’s not to like?
    No surprise all Dems just loved future cheap Dem votes and Corporate Repubics loved cheap labor.

    But what about Mead view?

    Presumably he would say he is not mindless immigration fanatic in the mold of WSJ big business hacks. Mead might say that he is against illegal immigration in principle, he is just against any practical measure to reduce it.

    So, Mr Mead, there are at least 500M, may be as high as 1B people in the world who have or could easily procure college diploma.
    How many visas we should give to the so-called high-skilled immigrants? Should we have any test of their claimed skills?
    Is 5M/year of hopefully skilled immigrants OK?

    It is all good, right? Why not 20M or 50M/year?

    What is Mr Mead argument against 50M number? Don’t they create jobs for themselves and Americans?
    So what is the problem? If 100M of diploma holders want to come and bring with them another 100M of their spouses and children, what’s wrong with that?

    If we triple USA population density (83people /sq mi) to be about Austria(260), a nice prosperous country, we could easily hold 1B people. Doubling again we could have 2B people and population density will be about Switzerland (490). And Switzerland is a very nice, superbly prosperous country.

    So with 2B people, most of whom arrived recently and have no idea or give a damn about Constitution of American history and culture, we could have a Switzerland standard of living. Or may be not.

    It is up to Open Borders ideologues to prove that we will have Switzerland instead of India.

    After 40 million immigrants in the last 30 years, the future is here.
    Mr Mead should research Dearbornistan (don’t bring bible, will get arrested) and South Central LA (bring your semi-automatic.

    Perhaps Mead could see faint signs of Switzerland in those vibrant places.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead

    “@Jorge: Like you, the overwhelming majority of Mexican immigrants living in this country are here legally.”

    Define overwhelming? Is it 95%? 65%? 50.1%?

    I define overwhelming as 75%+.
    $20 bet you will not prove you assertion with my definition.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead

    “I agree that the borders need to be controlled and that the government’s failure to handle this situation has left many local communities holding the bag.”

    I don’t know what “holding the bad” means exactly.

    Does Prof Mead believe in the law of supply and demand as it applies to labor, especially to unskilled and semi-skilled labor?

    Not all establishment media believes in labor supply and demand. WSJ doesn’t, to give most insane example.

    Now, assuming that Dr Mead does believe in un/semi-skilled labor supply and demand,
    why Dr Mead thinks that impact of over-supply of cheap labor is limited to local communities?

    Why Dr Mead thinks that impact does not propagate across the nation?

    If Orange growers in CA, to make up an example, use cheap illegal labor (in reality above 95%), their production costs are lower than, say, Florida growers who do not use illegals. Even though CA prices at wholesale level will be lower by 10-30% (labor is not a large part of agricultural costs), it is enough to drive business to CA.
    In a few years FL growers will be out of business or will be forced to hire illegals.

    CA growers will rake in money, CA taxpayers will spend additional Billion or two for new schools, hospitals and children welfare for illegal workers and their families.

    What’s not to like?

  • Kansas Scott

    Great post!

    I only stopped in for a moment between celebrating this remarkable country. The USA drives me crazy and fills me with incredible pride at the same time.

    The mix of people coming to this country is absolutely the strength of this bizarre country. Immigration is hard on us at times and things certainly do change but my God, at least we are not Europe stagnating in its purity (OK, that’s a little strong).

    Just like this country, I don’t always like immigration but it fills me with incredible pride. Bring them on and we will figure it out.

    It’s like having kids only different. Fear would keep you from ever having kids because they will change you and mess up your life. Fortunately, a combination of nature and love leads even those who think about it to continue to have kids and experience the growth in ourselves that they bring.

    Keep this country renewing its strengths and lose the fear of immigration. Craft immigration laws based on common sense and not blind fear of people who are different.

    Now it’s time to go back to celebrating those crazy immigrants of 1776.

  • Tom

    @Mick:

    First, prove that 50 million highly skilled Chinese will show up, rather than stay in China.

  • fnn

    “Skilled Immigrants Help Make Us All Rich”

    Wheeee…it’s all about the money!

    But not in Israel:
    http://mangans.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-birthright-citizenship-in-israel.html

  • fnn

    “Open the doors; let freedom ring.”

    Yes, they can’t cancel your food stamp benefits for exercising your First Amendment rights. Though you should always keep the Patriot Act and the NDAA in mind. You don’t have to be a Muslim to become an Enemy of the People.

    Also, most parts of the US are far better on self-defense rights than anyplace in the EU. However, you should strictly mind your own business outside the home if you have a CCW permit.

  • America’s high immigration opportunity cost

    I would like to correct what WRM said further up in the comments where he noted that “the vast majority of Mexican immigrants are legal.”

    That is factually not true. This is not a question of morals or value judgments but statistics.

    As the Pew Hispanic Center reported in 2005, 80-85 percent of Mexican and Central American immigrants during the current immigration wave have been illegal.

    http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/44.pdf

    Other estimates cite approximately 6 million legal and 6 million illegal Mexican nationals in the US.

    Neither 15 nor 50 percent constitute a “vast majority.”

    Today, we have:
    Over 10% of Mexico’s entire population currently living in the United States.

    Mexicans are over 30% of all immigrants in the US and 60% of illegal immigrants.

    Is that because nobody else in the world wants to come here? Hardly.

    Let’s face it: We no longer have “diverse” immigration; it is skewed heavily toward one group that, in any rational immigration system that prioritizes education or skill or earning potential and ability to be financially independent, would not be grabbing up 30% of the world’s immigration slots.

    This is due to the tag-team of racialist, ethnicist identity politics practiced by the Left all the way up to President Obama, combined with unscrupulous business interests too happy to break the law and keep Americans out of work and on state benefits if they can profit a bit more from it. This Terrible Twosome prevents the law from ever being enforced or rational policy from being written.

    What I want to know is, as a 20-something American, will there ever be in my lifetime an immigration policy that takes the interests of every citizen, of the country, seriously? Or will our immigration policy be forever hostage to the Hispanic lobby, tied to chain immigration, amnesty after amnesty for those who break the law, and allowing in individuals who have skills, education levels and income much lower than that of the average American (meaning that per capita GDP and education get pulled down).

    A healthy economy can only have so many landscapers and water-pourers, but the businesses that use illegal labor can afford to have 3 times as many workers as needed because of the (illegally) low costs. Thus you get structurally low productivity in the economy — one of the worst traps for any economy to fall into.

    This is unfair for Americans who actually want diversity to mean something, who feel that with so many people in the world learning English or computer science or nano-biology and wanting desperately for reasons of loving our culture or our freedom to come to the US, we should actually acknowledge those people and give them as much as a shot as anyone who, no matter whether literate or not, English-speaking or not, skilled or not, law-abiding or not, can waltz into the country by dint of being from Mexico. Think of the tremendous opportunity costs we bear every day when we prioritize over the world’s best and brightest and more earnestly pro-American people with no skill or education, whose children unfortunately lag behind their counterparts (per a study reported last month on Page 1 of the WSJ), who result in a less-productive and distorted US labor market in addition to falling education and income standards.

    It is fundamentally unfair both to Americans and to the rest of the world, and I fear this will never end, given the degree of pandering to Hispanic lobbies and the President’s own behavior of late. Is America doomed to turn into Latin America? Do Americans want that? Since when do we have no say whatsoever in the fate of our nation?

  • America’s high immigration opportunity cost

    Regarding SKILLED immigrants, Via Meadia have asked the $10M question. I too am absolutely perplexed why nothing is being done to address economic competitiveness issues via immigration by, e.g., letting more high-achieving students stay in the country easily.

    Instead, all of Congress’ attention goes toward trying to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. No attention whatsoever is given to the people that would actually contribute to the economy in terms of lifting per capita GDP. Practically speaking, all that needs to be done is to steal a page out of Canada/ Australia’s immigration playbooks (incidentally, these are the countries with the healthiest economies of the West, in part because of their resources but also because they think about human capital impacts when legislating immigration policy).

    Why something isn’t done to make the country more hospitable to the world’s best and brightest (starting with the captive audience of US-educated foreign students) — or, for that matter, to secure the border or implement E-Verify, all of which are simple technological fixes that 95% of the country supports — is the most frustrating aspect of US politics. I know that the La Raza-style interest groups will freak out if legal/skilled immigrants are addressed before Congress grants everyone in their ethnic group an amnesty, but, really, is that enough to stop Congress from putting a few easy solutions together?

    What’s going on? Any thoughts? Any answers? Why does the country’s immigration system get held hostage by illegal immigration and its stalwarts?

  • An

    @WRM

    Depending on who you believe, there are between 10-20 million illegal immigrants in the US, plus another 3-4 million children of illegal immigrants who are US Citizens. The vast majority of which are Hispanic. Of those that are classified as Hispanic, 55% are from Mexico with the rest from Central America.

    But if you go through the Census records, the Hispanic population was very small in the 1960s before the great illegal immigration wave that began in the early 70s. Those illegal immigrants and their offspring make up the bulk of the Hispanic population in the United States.

    Furthermore, our immigration policy places great importance on family reunification. I do approve of reuniting spouses and children of immigrants but our system goes one step further: it allows aunts, cousins, parents, etc priority over skilled immigrants. Family reunification is the legal means most often used by Mexican and Central America immigrants to get a green card, not skill based immigration or refugee status. There is truth to the “anchor baby” argument. Again, Mexican/Central American immigrants are not the only “Hispanic” immigrants as we large migrations of Colombians, Venezuelans etc due to political turmoil, but most of these immigrants came legally and are dwarfed by the size of the Mexican/Central American contingent.

    I agree with WRM that we should not equate Mexican with illegal as most Hispanics in America are US citizens or have green cards; but we cannot deny that illegal immigration has fueled the growth of the Hispanic Population in America. Whether this is good or bad is still in debate, but I am optimistic that American Culture will win out in the end.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Tom says:

    “First, prove that 50 million highly skilled Chinese will show up, rather than stay in China.”

    1. Reading is difficult, I know.

    I didn’t claim that 50M chinese or others will come.

    I ASKED Dr Mead, apparently immigration absolutist, if 50M/year visas for BA degrees (degrees are not verified) holders is it OK as far as Dr Mead is concerned.

    2. Since you mentioned that, what is your definition of highly-skilled visa applicant?

    Note that your definition is totally irrelevant for immigration law on the ground. What counts, the only thing that counts, is Immig Admin definition.

    For fun, after formulating your definition of highly-skilled, compare it with Immig Admin definition of high-skill or genius.

    3. Do you know that there were instances in recent history of very high immigration (as percent of available population)?

    Can you guess what those instances are?

    I will help.

    When times were tough economically in 1990th, no pogroms, civil war or anything, Russian Jews were moving to Israel at a rate of 10% of their population per year.

    Polls indicate that maybe 2 -3 Billions would gladly move to the USA.
    1% of 2B willing is 20M / year.

    One in three Mexicans would not mind relocating to the USA (www.pewglobal.org/2009/09/23/most-mexicans-see-better-life-in-us-one-in-three-would-migrate/). That’s almost 40M right there. 4M/year for 10 years?
    Superb!

    And the biggest of them all:

    “Deng Xiaoping smiled, and asked, “Well, Mr. President, how many Chinese nationals do you want? Ten million? Twenty million? Thirty million?.”

    Here Deng is tutoring visiting President Jimmy Pollyanna Carter, as recorded in Heaven’s Door by Harvard Prof George Borjas (amazon.com/Heavens-Door-George-J-Borjas/dp/0691059667)

    20M/year is a relatively modest number given appalling living standards in the most of the world.

    But even that modest number will make this country totally unrecognizable is 20 years. You are better train your children to live in South Africa-like environment.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead

    “it’s important not to let the idea stand that Mexican=illegal.”

    You provided no hard data on actual number of legal and illegal US residents of Mexican extraction.

    If a lay person sees that 90% of Mexicans around him are illegals, he will make up a simple model for his decision making that yes, person of Mexican background = illegal immigrant.

    Speaking of hard data, is Political Science allergic to it? You virtually never use hard, verifiable data.

  • vanderleun

    “Open the doors; let freedom ring.”

    Please post your home address that we may be sure all who come in and are worthy get some shelter immediately so their magic skills can be used to spread their magic beans.

  • An

    @WRM

    One more thing. It’s not the illegal immigrants that are the problem per se, it’s their children.

    Most of the illegal immigrants are largely from rural areas in Mexico and Central Americas. They are unskilled and not very bright (avg IQ is 82 according to a US Government study), but they work damn hard and show up to work every day. Qualities I admire and respect. They are respectful of authority, hold moral and religious values most Americans share, and commit less crimes than the average American.

    The subsequent generations have adopted the values of the American underclass without necessarily living in the “inner cities.” The hard work of the initial generation of illegal immigrants has not transferred to the second generation. Whether at work or at school they do not work as hard as their peers. 1/2 of all Latinas in America are pregnant by age 19, virtually all out of wedlock. This is a serious problem as the birthrates of american hispanics are higher than even that of Mexican women. In 2006, the average Mexican woman had 2.6 children in her lifetime whereas Hispanic Americans had 4 children. I expect and eventual convergence of birth rates among US and Hispanic women in time, but we have a huge generation of young Hispanics who do not have the skills to function in a post-industrial society.

    George Borjas of Harvard wrote a report for NBER titled “Mexican Immigration to the United States” that studied four generations of Mexicans and the results are not promising. Another good book to read written by two left-of-center hispanic professors is “The Latino Education Crisis,” by Patricia Gandara and Frances Contreras. Both books give empirical data outlining the magnitude of the problems facing us.

    This question of how do we prepare this generation for a post-industrial, post-blue world will largely determine the success of any immigration solution.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @vanderleun


    “Open the doors; let freedom ring.”

    Please post your home address that we may be sure all who come in and are worthy get some shelter immediately so their magic skills can be used to spread their magic beans.”

    Oh, but immigration ideologues like to open country door, their private doors are open only to their gardeners, nannies, maids, pool men, etc.

    They also like they restaurant food to be cheap and hotel room rates low.

    And since the Stupid Party kept tax rates on high earners only marginally higher than middle class, ideologues have managed to shift all costs of immigration on middle and lower classes.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Legal immigration into the US has been a generous amount of over 1 million per year for many years. No one really objects to those here legally, it’s the ones here illegally that people object too. That the very first act of these people who supposedly want to be Americans is to violate our laws, disqualifies them as good citizenship material and makes Americans not want them here using services meant for citizens and taking jobs taxpaying Americans should get.

  • Jim.

    While I agree with the gist of this post, I beg universities to consider one point:

    PLEASE, require a high level of proficiency in English communication when handing out professorships with lecture responsibilities! (This seems a particularly dire problem in Math departments I’ve run across).

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    With no concern for the welfare of the countries from which these talented individuals come? An invention benefits the whole world — plus its patent holder — but not the country in which he lives especially. Furthermore, you don’t have to be an immigrant or apply for citizenship in order to do business in the United States. If we drain the brains (and the fortunes) of poor countries with few bright, well-educated people, what does that say about our system of values? It’s all about us, right? Except that it isn’t all about us as outlined above.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Readers should know that under current law foreign investors who put at least $1 million into a U.S. business and meet other requirements can be eligible to apply for a green card.

    Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Except when you consider that it is an open invitation to every successful crook in the developing (or not developing) world to abscond to the U.S. with his loot. There are hundreds of thousands of “naked officials” (as they call them) in China alone. What kind of citizens will they make?

    Judging by the comments above Mead is out-argued. But he’s not out-gunned because directly or indirectly the money he earns comes from the special interests who benefit from high immigration. He might like to dispute that?

  • Tom

    @Mick–

    Perhaps I should have clarified my statement, but the obvious implication of your post was that if 50 million visas are offered, then 50 million people will come. If there are not 50 million people who will come, then why should we worry about 50 million people coming?

  • hoho eater

    I suggest flooding the U.S. with high skilled Journalists, Lawyers, and Economists from foreign lands. These groups consistently poll very poorly with Americans, so importing a new batch will help spur competition and hopefully improve the quality of these important fields.

  • Fiddlesticks

    “Short sighted know-nothings” could actually be our best allies if we would cultivate, rather than alienate, them.

    Most skeptics would be OK with a generous annual allotment of 200K genius visas that didn’t have H1B’s ridiculous employer tethering provisos, gave preference to those educated in the US, and contained safeguards from corruption by body shops or being dominated by just one or two countries.

    Ironically, these genuises’ breakthroughs will automate away even more low-skilled jobs. So if we want a winning coalition, we would be wise to rethink our demands to combine both types of visas into the same legislation.

    Why not compromise? Encourage high-skill visas from a diverse range of countries and drop the other stuff for now. Give the skeptics a reason to trust us.

  • thibaud

    Mr Mead responds, above, that ” The great Irish wave of the 1840s and 1850s was “not wanted”; so were many of the waves from eastern and southern Europe. Both the make up of the Mexican wave and the reactions to it are far from unprecedented in American history.”

    True. But the economy of the 1840s and 1850s, like the economy of the early 20c, was heavily weighted toward unskilled labor. There was a labor SHORTAGE on the 19c railroads etc and then again in the factories and steel mills of the early 20c.

    Today we have a SURPLUS of low-end, unskilled non-ag labor. We know this because real wages for the low end of the labor market have actually DECLINED since 1970.

    Whenever you hear someone justify the millions of unskilled, uneducated immigrants we’ve let in during the last few decades by saying, “We need their labor” – ie, when they repeat the myth of a low-end, non-ag labor shortage in the US – ask him this:

    On what planet is it the case that the market-clearing price for a good actually FALLS when that good is scarce?

    How does that work?

  • Nate W

    I work in Corporate IT, and have found that companies want it both ways. They complain that they can’t find American IT workers (at the prices the management folks set). So they hire a bunch of H1B visa people who can’t quit and are paid a significantly lower wage (body shops).

    The funny thing is that the companies that continue to hire the most H1B visa holders (IBM, for example) are doing *worse* in the marketplace as they discover that many of these people are *not* the geniuses that they believe they are.

    The smart immigrants going to school here and getting patents are *not* the majority of these immigrants. The majority of these H1B’s get here with a bunch of worthless IT “certifications”, but can’t actually solve real-world problems – or talk to clients and understand the business problems they are supposed to be solving with IT.

    Smart companies are beginning to insource their IT staffs again as they realize that being able to pass a bunch of certification tests is not a replacement for problem-solving skills. Rote memorization is a key feature of the educational systems of Asia, and thinking outside the box to solve problems is not encouraged.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @hoho eater

    “I suggest flooding the U.S. with high skilled Journalists, Lawyers, and Economists from foreign lands. … importing a new batch will help spur competition and hopefully improve the quality of these important fields.”

    Excellent suggestion. I would suggest a mandatory H1B-like program for tenured University Professors:
    If 2 qualified (no need to define qualifications) immigrants can be hired for salary of one professor, said professor’s tenure must be terminated and professor will be free to compete with able and willing immigrants.

    Say some tenured Poli Science Prof at Bord college (OK but not top school) makes $200K/school year (10 months) and teaches 1 class every other semester.
    Bord college puts out this position for bids and attracts 1000 applications, 3 for highly qualified Indian, Chinese and Russian scientists. They bid for $60K/year or less and agree to teach 2 classes every semester.

    Bord college terminates tenure of the Proff and let him bid to match offers from excellent appliacnts.

    Result is highly positive, Bord college will have 2 hardworking professor at about half of what they used to pay.

    What’s not to like?

    I’m sure that Professor Mead will strongly support this H1B1-like program for faculty improvement. Our Higher Education is too expensive and will greatly benefit from unlimited supply of low-cost hardworking faculty.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @thibaud

    “Today we have a SURPLUS of low-end, unskilled non-ag labor. We know this because real wages for the low end of the labor market have actually DECLINED since 1970.”

    What do we know about real wages for the middle portion of the labor market since 1970?

    In late seventies I was pretty good but not super exceptional system programmer grunt. And my expertise was not too exceptional.
    I did some consulting programming assignments and my hourly charges were in $100-$125/hr range. Was not very unusual among guys I was working with, some were making a little less, some a bit more.

    $125 in 1978 is $440.60 today (see http://www.usinflationcalculator.com).
    Per Hour!

    I’m not in touch with contract programming market and has not been for 10 years, is $440/hour a common wage today?

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Tom says:

    “implication of your post was that if 50 million visas are offered, then 50 million people will come. If there are not 50 million people who will come, then why should we worry about 50 million people coming?”

    You putting things upside down.
    One has to understand that Immigration Ideologues, be they insane like WSJ editors, or appear to be rational like Dr Mead, want UNLIMITED immigration, not upper bound whatsoever.

    That’s why they never mention upper limit.
    Well, most rational Americans would think that 50M/year is way too high.

    So, now the ball is in Ideologues court, they have to show that despite lack of any limits on total number, 50M will not come in the first year, the second year, etc.

    It’s like you are asking your dad to borrow his American Express, the special one that has no upper limit (apparently they do exist).

    Dad, naturally, wants some assurances that you will not charge his card for a new Porsche and vacation in Costa del Sol, Spain with your buds. Michelle Obama dropped there a cool half a mil, you have to prove to dad its not going to happen to his card.

  • thibaud

    You’re wicked, Mick. Dead on target, though.

  • thibaud

    @ Mick #31: a first-rate programmer could get $150 hour today in Silicon Valley – a bit more if he’s got cutting-edge skills in a hot area. There are plenty of offshore options, but these are mainly for drones.

    Your personal experience is quite relevant to this discussion.

    Our thinking on immigration, as on so many issues, is imprisoned by lovely shibboleths from eras past and by abstract, extreme ideologies that don’t correspond to life as it’s actually lived by Americans today.

  • Mitchell Young

    The ‘American Century’, the founding and growth of Silicon Valley, the PC revolution, the development of the internet, the baby boom, the creation of suburban America, Rock and Roll, even the ‘Civil Rights’ revolution all, *all* , happened during a time of tight immigration restriction — ethnically balanced, too.

    In contrast, the height of the previous ‘wave’ of immigration was characterized by corrupt urban political machines, crowded tenements, ethnic division, even political violence (Sacco and Vanzetti ring a bell?).

    Should there been some sort of provision for very special folks — the Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torwald, types — yes. There already is — ‘O’ visas. We don’t, however, need ‘code jockeys’ by the drove. In fact, given the heavy use of H1-Bs by Indian run, Indian based companies like Tata Consulting, it is likely that H1-Bs are more a trojan horse to create a conduit for offshoring of jobs than a prop to keep American companies strong.

  • William Wright

    Short sighted know-nothings see skilled entrants as competing with white collar native born Americans for a limited number of jobs: the idea seems to be that there is only so much dog food in the dog dish, and letting more foreign dogs in just means less food for the rest.

    This is an economic tautology. If your skilled immigrants are doctors, who will pay them and why? Will Americans increase their health care spending by 30% if immigration increases the supply of doctors by 30%? Obviously not. The spending will stay constant, but the dollars will be spread among more people.

    What about science R&D? Who will hire the immigrants and why? Anyone who needs researchers — at any level of quality — can hire them now. Anyone who doesn’t hire researchers under the current circumstances would hire immigrants for only one reason: they would change the market and lower the cost of labor. These are simple, indisputable facts.