Tag Archives: immigration reform

CEI Podcast for March 29, 2012: The History of American Immigration in Six Minutes

Have a listen here.

America’s first immigration law passed in 1790. A more-or-less open borders policy lasted until the 1920s, when immigration was severely restricted. Since then, policies have become more open in some ways, and more closed in others. Immigration Policy Analyst Alex Nowrasteh talks about the reasons behind the major historical shifts, and suggests reforms that would make today’s immigration system fairer and less cumbersome.


CEI Podcast for January 12, 2012: Mistaken Deportations

Have a listen here.

Immigration Policy Analyst Alex Nowrasteh tells Jakadrien Turner‘s story and explains what it means for the immigration reform debate. Turner is a 14-year old girl from Texas who was mistakenly deported to Colombia. Turner is not Hispanic, does not speak Spanish, and has no connections to Colombia whatsoever. It took six months of pleading and legal maneuvering before authorities allowed her to return home. This was not an isolated incident. The way to prevent future cases like this, Nowrasteh argues, is radically simplifying our overly complex immigration and citizenship laws.

Why Is Immigration Illegal Anyway?

Art Carden and Ben Powell ask that fundamental question, and answer it brilliantly:

American immigration restrictions have a long history, but they have never been a good idea. Economist Thomas Leonard documents how even some Progressive Era economists supported immigration restrictions and minimum wages because they wanted to shut members of what they called “low-wage races” out of the American labor market…

Fears that immigrants will wreck our economy are probably the biggest reason substantial barriers to legal immigration remain on the books. But immigrants don’t take our jobs, lower our wages or depress the American economy.

Virtually all economists who study immigration find that it provides a small but positive impact on the economy. It should be obvious that immigrants don’t steal jobs from the native-born. Since 1950, the labor force has more than doubled but long-run unemployment is essentially unchanged. As we’ve added more workers, we’ve added more jobs.

Read the whole thing here.

CEI Podcast for July 28, 2011: Immigration Reform

Have a listen here.

President Obama made a speech on immigration reform this week. He is looking for a dance partner in Congress to ease restrictions on the immigrant-dependent high-tech sector. Policy Analyst Alex Nowrasteh points out that there are several bills already in Congress that would do just that, including the STAPLE Act and the DREAM Act.

Liberalize High-Skilled Immigration

Over at the Daily Caller, CEI policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh and I tell the story of Jeffrey Lin. He is a Ph.D student at CalTech who holds three patents, has invented a device that would cure glaucoma, and is planning to start his own business to make his device and get it to people who need it. Who knows how many jobs he’ll create in the coming years?

Under current immigration law, Jeffrey might well be kicked out of the country. What did he do wrong? He was born in Taiwan.

Jeffrey came to the U.S. because of its top-notch universities. He’d like to stay here because the entrepreneurial environment and available engineering talent are better than anywhere in the world. He can create new jobs and new technologies here in America. Or, as under the current immigration system, he can create them elsewhere. This situation cries for reform.

Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona has proposed just such a reform. His new bill, the STAPLE Act, would basically staple a green card to the diploma of any international student who earns a Master’s or a Ph.D from a U.S. university in fields like the sciences, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

It isn’t comprehensive immigration reform. But it would help hundreds of thousands of people like Jeffrey Lin, and it would help boost an ailing U.S. economy.

You can read our entire article here.

CEI Podcast – December 21, 2010: What’s Next for Immigration Reform?

Have a listen here.

CEI Policy Analyst Alex Nowrasteh goes over the good and the bad of the DREAM Act, which recently stalled in the Senate. The bill would have offered permanent residency to undocumented immigrants under age 16 if they meet several requirements over the next 6 years, such as graduating from high school, staying in good moral standing, and speaking English. Alex then offers some ideas for the next attempt at liberalizing America’s Byzantine immigration system.

The East German Immigration Model

A U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska thinks that the U.S. should follow East Germany’s example when it comes to immigration. GOP nominee Joe Miller told a town hall audience, “The first thing that has to be done is secure the border. . .  East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow.  Now, obviously, other things were involved.  We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border.  If East Germany could, we could.”

He’s darn right “other things were involved.” See CEI’s video on the Berlin Wall for details. What a terrible choice of example.

Miller also forgets that East Germany’s 858 miles of fence weren’t meant to keep people out. That fence was meant to keep people in. Against their will. On pain of death.

It’s almost certain that Miller doesn’t really want the full-on East German border enforcement model. It was probably just a tasteless slip of the tongue. But he clearly favors a border fence. Which, of course, he should oppose if his goal is actually to reduce illegal immigration.

Many undocumented immigrants only stay in the U.S. for a few months. Get a job, make some money, go back home and share it with family. A border fence will keep a lot of people like that out, yes. But it also keeps current undocumented immigrants in. Unwillingly, in many cases.

If Miller wins his election, there is a lot he can do to reduce illegal immigration. Building an American version of the Berlin Wall is not one of them. As Alex Nowrasteh and I wrote, “The immigration black market only exists is because the government has made the legal market as cumbersome as it can.”

Miller should make legal immigration less cumbersome. People will come to America, no matter what. That’s what happens when you have one of the freest, richest, most dynamic nations on earth. That’s a fact of life that our broken immigration system does not take into account.

Neither, apparently, does Joe Miller.


Skilled Immigrants: More, Please

Over at the Daily Caller, my CEI colleague Alex Nowrasteh makes the case for doing away with the cap on H-1B visas. The cap limits the number of highly skilled immigrants to 85,000 per year. In most years, all 85,000 spots are filled in a single day. Applications were down last year and this year because of the recession. But they’ll bounce back as soon as the economy does. At the very least, the cap should be substantially raised. It would be better if the cap were eliminated altogether.

The reason the cap exists is that some people think skilled immigrants take jobs away from Americans. Alex explains why that isn’t true:

There is no fixed number of jobs to be divided among Americans.

Foreign skilled workers don’t “take” American’s job; they complement them. Foreigners are not substitutes for U.S.-born workers even when they have similar skills and experience.  In many situations, H-1B workers push Americans into managerial or other higher positions.

Many people also believe that skilled immigrants lower wages for native-born Americans. That isn’t true either:

If cash-strapped businesses could drastically cut wages by hiring more H-1B workers instead of native-born workers, then applications for H-1B visas would increase during recessions as businesses cut costs.  The opposite is true.  H-1B applications fall dramatically during recessions.

Firms that employ H-1B visa workers do so when they are expanding production and have trouble meeting their labor requirements domestically.  Observing this effect, the National Foundation for American Policy reported in 2009 that for every H-1B position requested, U.S. technology firms increase their employment by five workers.

The government’s artificial limit on skilled immigration is prolonging the recession. The H-1B cap needs to be either raised or done away with entirely. American jobs depend on it.

Fixing America’s Immigration Black Market

One of the problems with current immigration laws is that they raise the price of immigrating legally. Basic economics tells us that when something costs more, people consume less of it.

That’s why so many of America’s immigrants are turning to dangerous but cheap immigration black markets to enter the country. This is a problem with an obvious solution. In today’s American Spectator, Alex Nowrasteh and I make the case that lowering the cost of legal immigration through liberalization will reduce the amount of illegal immigration, and shrink cruel black markets.

Basic economics wins again.