Should immigration be family-based?

How should we select legal immigrants?  Under the status quo, about two-thirds of new legal arrivals come through family connections; the new immigration bill would (over time) move toward a points system and favor skills.  This stimulating article suggests that the change would favor the suburbs and penalize New York City.  The city’s economic revival depended (and still depends) on immigrant-run, family-connected small businesses.  I liked this sentence:

These days, in a Lower East Side neighborhood that has been a cradle of
family chain migration to America for 200 years, the deli at Delancey
and Allen Streets is a 24-hour operation run by a man from Bangladesh –
one of about 70 relatives to follow a Bangladeshi seaman who jumped
ship here in 1941.

The focus on skills has many advantages, but might it destroy New York City?  In contrast, Northern Virginia, with its high-tech firms, would benefit from the reforms.  Los Angeles, which has a higher percentage of illegals, and a higher concentration of Mexicans, stands in a very different position than does New York.

A skills-based system would probably bring more men and fewer women; in many poorer countries women do not have good educational opportunities.  If the men are allowed to bring over spouses from the home country, this could mean less assimilation; female arrivals are more likely to marry out of group.

Henry Farrell pointed out that a skills-based system might drive greater "brain drain" in poor countries; in his view America’s gain would be the world’s loss.  Alternatively, by sending their skilled citizens, poor countries might received improved skilled returners, more remittances, and more business connections.  Arguably this has worked for India.  The new entry requirements also might increase the incentive for third world residents to
acquire skills, and of course not all of the skill-seekers will end up
migrating.  Overall I do not believe the net effect here is known.

If family members are left out of legal immigration, might they have the greatest demand to then come as illegals?

The bottom line: A very big change is in the works here, yet I don’t feel I have a good handle on it.

Here is George Borjas on point systems.  Comments are open, but please don’t rehash the usual debates, try to make new points and please focus on legal arrivals only.


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