What is the best way to attract high-skilled migrants?

Mathias Czaika and Christopher R. Parsons have a new paper on this topic:

Combining unique, annual, bilateral data on labor flows of highly skilled immigrants for 10 OECD destinations between 2000 and 2012, with new databases comprising both unilateral and bilateral policy instruments, we present the first judicious cross-country assessment of policies aimed to attract and select high-skilled workers. Points-based systems are much more effective in attracting and selecting high-skilled migrants than requiring a job offer, labor market tests, and shortage lists. Offers of permanent residency, while attracting the highly skilled, overall reduce the human capital content of labor flows because they prove more attractive to non-high-skilled workers. Bilateral recognition of diploma and social security agreements foster greater flows of high-skilled workers and improve the skill selectivity of immigrant flows. Conversely, double taxation agreements deter high-skilled migrants, although they do not alter overall skill selectivity. Our results are robust to a variety of empirical specifications that account for destination-specific amenities, multilateral resistance to migration, and the endogeneity of immigration policies.

I would urge a bit of caution, however.  If you are Canada or Australia, and your country is not going to birth Google, you care most about the average skill level.  If you are the United States, you might focus more on policies that boost the far right hand tail of value creation, because the benefits from that will be very high indeed.  That means taking more chances on immigrants with an uncertain future but big potential upside, even if only with a small probability.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Post-1965 immigration suggests that taking a chance on "immigrants with an uncertain future" is the worst of all possible policies.

That is false, and you are not providing any explanation.

Self explanatory!

There is absolutely no need to take any chances because we can fill all the immigration slots we want with very high-skilled people. We could easily double or triple the immigrants we receive today and still only accept very high levels of human capital

Yes -- we could allocate 90% of our immigration to solid, educated immigrants (and their spouses and minor children), and leave the remaining 10% for some of those "take a chance" immigrants. But even there, we can afford to be somewhat selective. If we here word that some unknown out in the middle of nowhere may be the next Ramanujan, then by all means -- let's invite him in! But that doesn't mean we just let everyone in, in case he turns out to be the next Ramanujan.

Sergey Brin's family migrated to the US in 1979 when he was 6. If the long right tail has a tip, it would probably be him.

Intel, Google, Yahoo, Tesla, etc. would like a word with you

Apple as well, Steve Jobs' biological father was a Syrian immigrant. Over half of Silicon Valley's billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants:

The founders of Intel were born in the US. I do not believe the parents were immigrants either.

None of those other companies were created by an immigrant [legal or illegal] from Mexico or Central America.

Andy Grove was a Hungarian-Jewish refugee from the 1956 Communist crackdown. While not officially a founder (he was employee number 1), he was certainly more instrumental to Intel's success than either Gordon Moore or Robert Noyce.

Jeff Bezos was raised by his Cuban-American stepfather and took his name.

Tyler's article made no mention of Mexico or Central America, just skilled vs. unskilled immigration. Projecting much?

If you just consider legal post-1965 immigrants, have they been so bad for America?

Probably not, but there's a selection effect -- most legal immigrants have had to pass through a gauntlet of qualifications, e.g. not having a criminal record. Illegal immigrants are, for obvious reasons, disproportionately those people who would not have been able to immigrate legally, e.g. people with a criminal record. Not exclusively, of course, but there is selection. The law -- however much bien-pensants today may hate it -- at least makes gestures towards structuring immigration so it benefits the American people.

The immigrants that have entered -- especially the unskilled Latinos -- have brought in higher than average crime rates and lower than average high school and college completion. Make sure to look at second and third generations and not just the original immigrants.

No evidence that this flood has birthed many Googles, if any at all.

On the other hand, there is much evidence that immigrants from Europe, East Asia, Australia, especially those with college degrees, account for the disproportionate share of gains in tech, academia, and business and in fact, most of the stories cited re: benefits of more immigration.

It is safe to say that eliminating the bottom third or even half of the immigration distribution -- especially caused by family reunification and by illegals -- would have done little to influence the upper tail benefits of immigration. And a crude filter based on academic degrees from known universities of at least middling quality would have preserved 99.9% of the higher end immigration from all over the world.

For every illegal immigrant, reunification and birthright citizenship creates several "legal" immigrants. The original law breaking is like a loophole in the system.

It's funny how little attention economists have previously paid to this huge question.

But not Benjamin Franklin, who was opposed to swarthy Swedes polluting America's purity of essence - http://www.archive.org/stream/increasemankind00franrich/increasemankind00franrich_djvu.txt

Isn't this about skills and not skin color?

Ask Steve Sailer - he normally loves to cite Benjamin Franklin in such discussions of who are and who aren't desirable immigrants. And do note that Sailer is a human biodiversity believer - of the sort that feels fully justified in using their beliefs to determine who is and who is not desirable. Just like Benjamin Franklin, a person like Sailer can apparently make such a choice merely by looking at an immigrant.

Or, as he is famously noted for saying, some people should never be allowed to believe in something like 'let the good times roll.'

From his web site, Sptember 5, 2005 -
'"What you won’t hear, except from me, is that 'Let the good times roll' is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society."

As I noted later in my article, as shown this month in Commentary (the same article by Charles Murray, "The Inequality Taboo" that InstaPundit linked to), there has long been a sizable gap in average IQ between African-Americans and non-Hispanic white Americans (and an even bigger gap between blacks and Northeast Asians). This is normally described as a one standard deviation difference, or 15 points, although there is some new evidence suggesting it may have narrowed to about 14 points recently.'

OMG you've unearthed the BIG SCARY RACISM lurking at iSteve.

DON'T let the good times roll is sound advice for anybody on the leftward IQ distribution, regardless of race. Just because nice millionaire white ladies like Jodie Foster and Sandra Bullock do well as single moms doesn't mean it's also a good idea for the trailer trash and hood rats. For that matter, the personal lives of the cognitively and financially well-off are usually downright prudish. Less intelligent individuals can't buy their way out of the problems arising from promiscuous sex and intoxicants.

The one SD gap in test scores is probably the most persistent and replicable phenomenon in social science.

No, I answered the question about Sailer and his perspective on skills and skin color having a definite relationship.

As for Sailer's racism in that remark, this was the reaction from that radical SJW columnist John Podhoretz, who wrote in the hard left National Review Online blog that Sailer's statement was "shockingly racist and paternalistic" as well as "disgusting".

'regardless of race'

But as you can read in the words written in his own defense, Sailer was specifically referencing the fact concerning what 'is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups.' Do note that the explicitly described attribute was 'poorer native judgment,' not intelligence.

But who knows, maybe Sailer thinks that at least white American possess poorer native rhythm than members of more musically inclined groups, thus showing his color blindness when making objective judgments based on skin color.

A Hollywood publicist's worst nightmare: somebody secretly tapes Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, and Robert Downey Jr. discussing politics.

"If you are Canada or Australia, and your country is not going to birth Google, you care most about the average skill level. If you are the United States, you might focus more on policies that boost the far right hand tail of value creation,"

Is there much evidence that the United States does that? Or is doing anything rational involving immigration not who we are?

I didn't understand that statement at all.

Are you seriously suggesting that leaving the border wide open, and yelling "racist" at anyone who complains, is not rational?

Agreed. I would argue the opposite to Tyler's point, the US has missed out on creating more googles because of the immigration system. Canada and Australia can't compete with the ivy league American University system and don't have the amount of money sloshing around that the US does. The top talent from Canada moves to the US to take advantage of career opportunities and compensation that aren't available there.
Now that Canada has made it easier for foreign university students and more importantly post graduate students to gain permanent residence status, Canada's economy will benefit to a degree not experienced in the past. Saying that, it will take another decade for the cumulative affect to start creating any googles up north.

Most likely it will just provide you guys down south with a wider range of draft picks.

Re: Denglin -- I actually kind of agree. I think about my own relatives, actually, who are highly educated at US universities, but because of the structure of US immigration law weren't able to secure the necessary work permits. So they're working in China now (which, to be fair, is probably better for them too). Under a points system, I'm pretty sure they'd have been able to get in. But no one has any sympathy for the chumps who obey the law and leave when their visa is expired -- their sympathies are all directed towards illegal immigrants who cheated their way into the US, maybe committed a bit of ID theft, and now bewail the prospect of deportation.

"But no one has any sympathy for the chumps who obey the law and leave when their visa is expired "

Absolutely. I suspect that your average American would be far more amenable to increased legal immigration, if there weren't 10+ million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

Permanent residency is only valued by low skill workers. Most of high skill workers climbing the corporate or academic ladder stay in a country 3-5 years and then move on.

However, the issue here is the children of immigrants. Jus soli Vs Jus sanguinis. In the US parents get permanent residency and children citizenship. Skilled immigrants don't look after US citizenship for children.

I don't think what you wrote here is true

High skill workers is a much broader category than your comment implies. A lot of them are research assistants working in labs, engineers, etc. Not just executives or professors. Permanent residency certainly matters to a lot of high skilled workers.

Permanent residency can be very attractive to a PhD student. It will be insufficient to attract a Stephen Hawkings.

Canada and Australia should not worry about getting Stephen Hawkings (which we did for a year by offering him a budget and academic freedom), and focus on the top 1% instead of the top 0.001%. That's the advice.

Since a survey focused on "how much foreign high-skilled workers want US citizenship for their children?" has not been done and published yet, we have to look at proxies:

"two-thirds of all foreign doctorates are staying in the U.S. 10 years after graduation"

"The survey finds that more than nine-in-ten (93%) Hispanic immigrants who have not yet naturalized say they “would” naturalize if they could."

These stats shows a trend, 2/3 of PhDs are still in the US 5 years after graduation. 90% of Hispanics wish US citizenship. The hypothesis is: for high-skilled workers the US is just another dish in the global menu, for low skill workers that already arrived to the US, the US is the one and only option. Anyone with the will and time to prove it or disprove it?

Personal bias disclosure: as a high-skill worker all I want is a work permit, not citizenship of every country where I live for a certain time.

Somehow, I doubt the following answer that question in a positive fashion -

Shoot them in a bar while complaining about them being Iranian

Give the AMA a veto over allowing foreign doctors to practice in the U.S.

Elect someone like Trump as president

Further it would be interesting to see how 'immigration' works between the multilateral countries of the EU, where 'immigration' tends to be seen though multiple perspectives - no one seems concerned whether Mercedes attracts high quality engineers from anywhere in the EU, in the same way that no one seems concerned if Fiat does the same thing. No points system involved, no question of residency - and yet, it would not be a surprise to find that a city like Stuttgart has a fairly significant number of EU 'immigrants' with high qualifications.

Trump is the first US president to be the son of an immigrant. He is the first president whose all 4 grand-parents are immigrants. He is the first president since around 200 years whose spouse is an immigrant. Since the US constitution forbids an immigrant to become president, this is the strongest pro-immigrant message a presidential election could ever give. Electing Trum was a message that this country still values and trusts immigrants, not only as menial laborers and as voters, but as leaders.

First President who had a woman managing his campaign, too.

Let's not forget the shattering of that glass ceiling.

Nor should one forget his efforts in keeping one in place, as he was the first president to beat a woman in the Electoral College, while losing the popular vote.

Immigrants aren't fungible.

Trump is the first US president to be the son of an immigrant.

Nope. His hero, Andrew Jackson, was the son of immigrants too. But apart from that, you may be right. Obama comes close, but his dad never became an immigrant, so he probably doesn't count.

Anyone born before the establishment of the United States of America could be considered a child of immigrants, to be fair.

Wrong. Immigrants move to existing States. The Anglo and European colonists were settlers. Or conquerors, if you wish.

'Wrong. Immigrants move to existing States.'

Well, that is an interesting question, especially in light of the American Revolution, where Virginians like Jefferson argued that people in the colonies were not treated as fully equal British subjects. Not to mention do people immigrate to colonies? And of course, some American regions (think New York) changed owners a couple of times before becoming part of the United States - were the Roosevelts of New Amsterdam settlers in New Netherlands, who then became British colonials, who then became Americans? Without at any point actually having immigrated to the New World?

A fascinating technical point, it seems.

'Trump is the first US president to be the son of an immigrant.'

Which is quite true - and yet oddly, Trump rarely seems to hold up himself or his mother as an example of American immigrants who made good. Though if anyone has a cite of Trump talking about how even the son of an immigrant domestic servant can become president, I'm sure it would be interesting to read.

'He is the first president whose all 4 grand-parents are immigrants.'

And thus beating out JFK, though Trump is not Catholic.

'He is the first president since around 200 years whose spouse is an immigrant.'

Also quite true, though she does not seem to have assumed the role of First Lady till now. Trump is also the first president to have divorced twice, and to have married two immigrant women.

'this is the strongest pro-immigrant message a presidential election could ever give'

Strange how so much of the world seems to feel otherwise. Maybe that's because they take his words both literally and seriously. Reagan is remembered for telling Gorbachev to tear the Berlin Wall down - Trump has made building one a signature policy of his presidency.

"He is the first president whose all 4 grand-parents are immigrants."

I do not think his mom's parents were immigrants. I thought she came here alone.

Nice catch, though Trump gets credit for half of his grandparents having never been American citizens at all.

Oops - when looking for the phrasing from the Constitution for British subjects becoming Americans, this popped up - ' Every president to date was either a citizen at the adoption of the Constitution in 1789 or was born in the United States; of those in the latter group, there have been seven that had at least one parent who was not born on U.S. soil.' So much for that aspect of Trump's being a beacon to the world's huddled masses, yearning to be free.

Points-based systems are often suggested with no further explanation. Does it not depend very much on what points are awarded for?

You speak English. +15 points

You have a university degree. +15 points.

Etc. Applications under 70 points not considered, for example.

This is beautifully visualization of the UK points immigration system in the form of a calculator. It also lets you compare changes in the point system over time: http://ig.ft.com/features/2014-07-17_visa-calculator/

It's damned simple, just 4 variables: highest level of education, income in the last 12 months anywhere around the world, income in the last 12 months in the UK, birthdate (age).

English knowledge is irrelevant. If you earned 40K, 50K or 150K GBP in the last 12 months, either you know English or it doesn't matter anymore. For example, earning 150K GBP grants you a visa even if you're old and don't have a college degree.

This was for the tier 1 visa, which has been discontinued for a number of years (and was always a small portion of visas).

Most skilled migrants come to the UK on a tier 2 visa. Requirements are to be sponsored by your employer, have a high enough salary or work in a highly skilled job, speak English, and have enough savings.

It used to be slightly different and called "points based", though you basically had to meet every requirement. There weren't multiple ways to rack up enough points to get the visa, so calling it points-based was a bit suspect.

"If you are Canada or Australia, and your country is not going to birth Google, you care most about the average skill level. If you are the United States, you might focus more on policies that boost the far right hand tail of value creation, because the benefits from that will be very high indeed." [SNIP]

The horse has bolted, TC

The next goog will be Chinese.

btw, @ least 3 of goog's acquisitions have been AUS start ups, including Anthony Goldbloom's intriguing Kaggle: http://www.afr.com/technology/google-buys-australias-kaggle-20170308-gutzx3

& as long as we're on the topic, Lars Rasmussen [Google Maps] launched his company in Australia.


'Average skill levels', indeed.

I thought that bit was suspicious as well. I was wondering if it could have been written during BlackBerry's dominance.

Megacities (with cumulative advantage, etc.) may predominate, but I don't think I would say less populous or rural regions "can't" going to hit home runs.

"The next goog will be Chinese."

Maybe but only if the Chinese person lives in the US.

China has not invented anything usefull since gunpowder.

" China has not invented anything usefull since gunpowder"

Hey, what about those video games you play in your Mom's basement?

How wide selling are video games invented by the Chinese? As far as I know, I've never played a Chinese video game.

When "high-skilled" workers are mentioned, no doubt the inference is that these are orthographic conceptualists rather than object manipulators. Chances are that most immigrants are likely to come from societies that value "primitive" skills rather than esoteric abstract ones like designing high-frequency option trading exchanges.

What a bizarre comment. This isn't a theoretical discussion; millions of "high-skilled immigrants" already exist.

Behavioral economics (a/k/a manipulation) is both the present and the future in finding, motivating, controlling, and retaining employees including immigrants. Read this article about how Uber (and several other companies) use behavioral economics: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-psychological-tricks.html? It's the psychology, stupid!

What's fascinating is the simplicity of the techniques. It reminds me of when my son was a child. Getting him out of bed in the morning was a herculean task, as his mother and I would have to go to his room over and over to wake him. I partly solved the problem by putting a thought in his head, such as asking him where he had put his shoes or what time he and his buddy wanted to go to the movie that evening. It was just enough to put his mind at work on something besides sleeping. The thing about Uber is that most of the manipulation is based on video games. People worry that those little tracking devices we carry around will cause brain cancer. Brain cancer! How about turning us into robots.

Relatedly, we should ask how we can get low productivity people to leave - as they consume various resources and reduce competitiveness by virtue of their presence.

One obvious approach is to end tenure for academics. It is clear that academic output is higher quality and more useful to society when academics come to work every day terrified of losing their positions and ability to support their families.

Amen. Rules for thee but not for me.

Amen. Tenure thus open borders.

Tyler makes a very good point, that policies that improve the average of some variable over a group are not necessarily the same as policies that improve the average of the highest 0.01% of that group. I note that another economists lost his job of President of Harvard over what was, mathematically speaking, the very same argument, but in truth the context was different.

However, if we admit that admitting too many ill-chosen immigrants has a cost (and if not, there is no need for a debate: just allow everyone from everywhere to immigrate), choosing too many immigrants at random seems unlikely to be the best way to improve the 0.01%. It is really not easy to find the right policy. A mix of skill-based immigration with some "diversity lottery", with the right proportion, basically what the US tries to do, seems promising and, on the long run, working.

On the other hand, admitting without details the defeated part of a bloody war may indeed, sometimes, gain some very-high skill persons (think von Braun), but morally and politically speaking it is indefensible, and the economic gain may very well be weak or negative. A good thing our new pro-immigrant president inflected that policy.

How did we attract The Beatles, and the rest of the British Brain Drain of the 1950's and 1960's?

Lower taxes. Or, more broadly, the ability to hang on to more of your wealth.

1..Is the US educational system currently subsidizing immigrants who attend US universities and then stay on in the US after they receive their Ph.D? Is our higher education system the ticket a non-citizen purchases to become a US citizen.

2. How important is residency for capturing talent and skills. One of my neighbors, a retired professor from Dartmouth, teaches via Skype in Sweden. One of my other neighbors telecommutes to his clients in other states, working out of his home and occasionally traveling to the client.

What exactly is a high skill immigrant?

Often this is mentioned in reference to "starts the next Google", but surely people who are going to start the next google a very small slice of the world generally. Lets say we use at least +3SD across a number of factors (IQ, social and leadership skills, etc). That would be a tiny fraction of our current immigration levels, even from just Asia.

Or does high skill mean any 115 IQ that can become a code monkey? When Disney fired its whole IT department and replaced them with Indian code monkey's to do the grunt work, was that high skill immigration?

What's the rationale there? I assume that the places these people are coming from will be rich within a generation on their own. And most people don't seem to want to immigrate other then to upgrade the wealth of the county they live in. There are few Japanese immigrants because they are already rich. Once China is rich, won't we have few of them immigrating. Is all this being done so that a few immigrants can get rich a generation or so faster and companies can keep costs down a little more?

Software developer is a high skill occupation. You could come up with derisive, monkey-related names for anything.

In other words asdf drank dan1111's milk shake. Slurped it down.

We're all college grads here. I think we know the difference between high end hard to replace genuis and +1SD mediocrity you can get anywhere.

Immigrants are a hard cultural fit and cause lots of issues. That is off weighed by their usefulness. There is a big difference in usefulness between true geniuses and passable mediocrities, and that weighs into the equation.

"Points-based systems are much more effective in attracting and selecting high-skilled migrants than requiring a job offer, labor market tests, and shortage lists"
Should this be filed under "shout it from the rooftops"? All the latter are great ways for certain companies to rig the visa market against American employees and immigrants alike: fake "skills shortages" are massaged out of data that actually shows moderately tight labor markets, and immigrants are stuck with their current employers.

Moving to a points-based system sounds like better flexibility both at the market-level AND for individual immigrants.

"If you are the United States, you might focus more on policies that boost the far right hand tail of value creation, because the benefits from that will be very high indeed. That means taking more chances on immigrants with an uncertain future but big potential upside, even if only with a small probability."

Kind of like what Harvard does in it's admissions policy. Sure, it may seem like a good idea to admit only the applicants with the highest test scores and GPAs, but Harvard is willing to take the chance on that applicant with a 3.5 GPA and mediocre test scores, as Tyler will explain, he's actually more likely to be on "the far right hand tail of value creation."

This is indeed a good explanation of what Tyler suggests. And that's far from stupid. If you assume that "ability for value creation" of an individual is described by a Gaussian whose mean is given by some average of the test score and GPA, it doesn't follow that an individual with perfect test score and GPA will necessarily have a greater chance to be in the far right of value creation". This will be true only if you assume in addition that the variance of the Gaussian is independent on the test score. But in real life, it is more likely that the variance will be far greater than for individuals will lower test score than for individuals with perfect test scores (there is only one way to get a perfect score, and many way to fail). If this is the case, taking at least some individuals with mediocre test scores and/or GPA may increase your expectation of getting very high-level individuals. But of course, it is very hard to quantify, and it would be easy to push too far in this direction and admit too many low-skilled immigrants/Harvard freshmen.

If you look at Harvard's most famous denizens, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (both dropouts, incidentally), they both got excellent grades at intake, just figured out this computer and Internet stuff respectively was a better use of their time than Harvard's curriculum.

The mediocre test score chancers is just a mechanism to admit legacies with social capital, like George W. Bush.

Shouldn't we inquire as to how Harvard, Caltech, MIT, Stanford, Facebook, and Sequoia identify promising people with big potential upside?

I know how Princeton identifies promising people with a big potential upside.

They look for someone willing to take risks...to say, "What the heck?" (Or words to that effect.)

I'll go against the grain here and state that the world (yeah, all of it) would be better served if rich countries were to liberalize and expand their temporary workers' programs rather than give more and more people permanent residency (and eventually citizenship.) With much stronger wage and labor protections, so as not to undercut the locals and beget populism of the kind we are witnessing now. Sort of like a more stringent H1B visa or a more liberal O1 visa.

For both rich and poor countries, this is the best of both worlds. The former get the manpower on a continuous basis they need (I'm not talking just about high-skilled workers here; this includes the fruit pickers too) and the latter avoid long-term brain drain. When Mexicans were free to cross the border to work, and return home during the off-season, there was no acrimony over immigration of the kind we are witnessing now.

Of course, given how the concept of citizenship has an almost spiritual significance for nationalists, such a scheme is probably DoA in the current climate. But to me, given how cheap, easy, and ubiquitous global travel has become, the resentment I see and hear (on alt-right sites mostly) against a transient or nomadic population feels perverse.

That's because you live at a comfortable distance from the social dysfunction of concentrations of people with low cognitive function. They're problematic in Central America too by the way, which is why their elites would love for more of them to move here.

I live in India. :)

I would love it if smart Indians either stayed home or returned after a few years of study and work in countries like the US (which is what I did.) Everyone trying to escape to America is not the answer, but neither is being trapped in India, unable to see first-hand how better-functioning societies work.

"When Mexicans were free to cross the border to work, and return home during the off-season, there was no acrimony over immigration of the kind we are witnessing now."

That period was rife with extremely low paid farm work.The United Farm Workers union actively suppressed migrant labor. There was probably more acrimony during the 60's against Mexican migrant workers than there is today.

"The UFW during Chavez's tenure was committed to restricting immigration. Chavez and Dolores Huerta, cofounder and president of the UFW, fought the Bracero Program that existed from 1942 to 1964. Their opposition stemmed from their belief that the program undermined U.S. workers and exploited the migrant workers. Since the Bracero Program ensured a constant supply of cheap immigrant labor for growers, immigrants could not protest any infringement of their rights, lest they be fired and replaced. Their efforts contributed to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964. ... In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a "wet line" along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW's unionization efforts.[25] During one such event, in which Chavez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chavez's cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers after peaceful attempts to persuade them not to cross the border failed."


I was thinking even earlier. AFAIK, Mexicans were free to cross the border and back through the 19th century, and even after the 1924 Immigration Act, which effectively decreed the US a land for white people (or certain groups of white people.) Was that not the case?

The labor appeal to paint migrant workers as exploited people (and many paint H1B workers today the same way) has always struck me as being disingenuous and misguided, assuming it arises out of altruistic (and not nativist) motives. These workers typically don't have a choice between being exploited by foreigners and having a cushy job back home; the choice is between having a moderate-to-crappy job overseas and having no job (and starving) back home. They know exactly what they are letting themselves into, and aren't clamoring for big labor to advocate on their behalf. I can understand the native workers having a legitimate beef with this state of affairs though.

I read recently that many Silicon Valley zillionaires are decamping to New Zealand, as a hedge against the Armageddon they expect will befall America. Peter Thiel holds citizenship there. Perhaps the next Google will emerge from there?

The next google won't emerge from the people who created the last google.

Huh. It's like people vote with their wallets for lower population density. Sure would be nice if the rest of us could just do that with national borders.

Well, that certainly explains NYC's and London's cratering real estate markets.

The ones buying those closet-sized condos don't have kids. The ones with 2K sq ft condos often have second homes. Mark Zuckerberg bought four houses around himself and a plantation in Hawaii. David Letterman and Don Imus, famous New Yorkers, both have spreads out West.

"If you are Canada or Australia, and your country is not going to birth Google, you care most about the average skill level."

I disagree. Small countries are like small towns. You only need one or two big wins to provide a major boost to your entire economy. The logic of power laws isn't any different in a small country than it is in a big one, and even transformative giants like Google start small.

Is no-one thinking of the origin country that these migrants come from? How can a country/region improve if its brightest and most entrepreneurial leave - if anything it spreads the dysfunction of that source area.
Countries should refuse accepting 'skilled' migrants and limit 'compassionate and targeted' migrants to 6-month/ few-years' 'sheltering periods' before return.
The problem is that immigration policies focus too much on the value of the individual and not enough on the value of the community (of origin). Fewer reliable migrant destinations would encourage migrants to improve their surrounds as well as themselves.
Further, long-term immigration should be limited to countries that are G7 or 'economically' stable-G20 so as to not create the 'brain drain'.

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