Questions about immigration

Following on my Op-Ed from yesterday, one loyal MR reader asks me, in an email, a few questions about immigration.  Here is my first cut at answers:

–Is there no amount of unskilled immigration that is too high? In other words, do you advocate open borders?

I don’t believe in open borders for today’s America.  I would increase current immigration quotas for all groups and allow illegals to move back and forth more readily.  Many current illegals would prefer to spend more time in their home country than is currently possible.  I don’t know exactly how much we can boost immigration and of course I don’t expect political progress on the issue.  But we should start with a twenty percent boost in the yearly quotas.    And how about another twenty percent increase two years later?

–Why do you have faith that federal policy can address the regionalized problems [with immigration] when you don’t trust federal policy to correctly judge which immigrant skills we ought to give priority?

I think the federal government is capable of giving more money to subsidize emergency rooms near the border.  This is an easier task than judging what professions we will need thirty years down the road.

–You mention the success of second-generation offspring of most immigrant groups, but let’s get real, this whole issue is about Mexicans, mostly, not Canadian economists. How have their offspring done? Of course, it might not even matter; if you’re right that a growing supply of unskilled labor isn’t bad, then does it make any difference if the second generation is also unskilled?

David Card and others have plenty of data on how well the second and third generations of Latinos do in assimilating and entering the mainstream of American life.  I find the overall portrait a reassuring one.  I will look for data on Mexicans per se and let you all know if I find anything useful. 

N.B.: If the quality of current Mexican immigration is "lower than you would like," keep in mind the current mix is partly an artifact of current immigration law, which encourages the least rooted and the most desperate to cross the border.   Young male teenagers are those who least mind being cut off from returning home.  Allowing immigrants to come and go would raise the quality of the pool.


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