Saturday, June 16, 2012

Catalan and Obama on immigration

Jonathan Catalan discusses the high skill immigration issue that I've had a few posts on recently. He agrees with me. This is a good part of the post:

"Current immigration policy also makes it much easier for high skill immigrants to gain permanent legal residency (maybe not as prioritized as family reunification, but far easier than other low-skill immigration — they have essentially no recourse for legal permanent residency and existing work permits are horribly designed)."

How easy it is for high skill immigrants to come here depends on the year. Right now it's fairly easy if you have an employer to sponsor you - demand for H1-Bs is low. In other years, of course, it's extremely competitive.

I think there's value in emphasizing family reunification and permanent residency over work visas (and rebalancing this so family building policies don't crowd out individual migrants). My big concern is that insofar as we have temporary work visas, there should be no distinction on the basis of skill (with the exception of O and P visas, which I think make good sense and should stay as rent-capturing measures). I like the idea of immigration as a social policy - as a policy aimed at welcoming new Americans - but in a globalized world you can't just not have work visas. However, those visas don't need to be distortionary.

The other piece of news, of course, is Obama's decision to let young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children stay and work in the country. They would not be on a path to citizenship. This is an executive decision, and of course would require Congress to act on the Dream Act to actually let them start on a path to citizenship.

Immigration is an issue I've touched tangentially many times. We read a lot of immigration material in my labor economics classes, I've done some work on it at the Urban Institute looking at immigrant children in the child welfare system, and I've touched on it with this science and engineering labor market stuff. But it is something I should get to know better.

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