Becker & Posner on immigration

Economics, national security and the politics of immigration

An interesting discussion over at the Becker-Posner blog on immigration policy. Excerpts:

To me it seems like a win-win situation for the US to admit annually a million or more skilled professionals with permanent green cards that allow them eventually to become American citizens. Permanent rather than temporary admissions of the H-1B type have many advantages to the US as well as to the foreign professionals. With permanent admission, these professionals would make a much greater commitment to becoming part of American culture rather than forming separate enclaves in the expectation they are here only temporarily. They would also be more concerned with advancing in the American economy rather than with the skills and knowledge they could bring back to India, China, or wherever else they came from. In particular, they would become less concerned with absconding with the intellectual property of American companies, property that could help them advance in their countries of origin, perhaps through starting their own companies…

I do, however, advocate being careful about admitting students and skilled workers from countries that have produced many terrorists, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. My attitude may be dismissed as religious “profiling”, but intelligent and fact-based profiling is essential in the war against terror. [Becker]

I think there is a simple answer to the “brain drain” problem. For concreteness, consider immigration to the United States of Indian software engineers. The more who immigrate, reducing the supply of Indian software engineers to Indian software producers, the higher the wages of those engineers in India. This will tend both to reduce the numbers immigrating to the United States and to elicit a greater supply of engineers for the Indian market.

I would not describe as “profiling” a system of screening would-be immigrants that, without fixing quotas on a national basis, screens more carefully applicants from nations that are breeding grounds of terrorists. The efficacy of such screening is another matter; the less effective it is, the stronger is the argument for reducing skilled-worker immigration from countries in which terrorists are admired and recruited. Besides terrorists, we have to worry about spies from potentially hostile nations; this implies a need for careful screening of Chinese immigrants as well. [Posner]

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