Merit-based immigration

by Russ Roberts on June 8, 2007

in Immigration

Here is my commentary on immigration that was on NPR’s All Things Considered, yesterday. Listen to it here. Here’s the opening:

According to the White House, the new immigration bill will "Help
Keep The U.S. Competitive In The Global Economy By Establishing A New
Merit-Based System For Immigration That Is Similar To Those Used By
Other Countries."

And how is it going to do that?

going to be a point system to determine who gets one of the precious
380,000 visas that are up for grabs. Highly educated people get points.
People with skills that are in high demand, whatever that means, get
points. Young but not too young? Points. Speak English well? More
points for you. Speak it badly, fewer points. Don’t speak it at all? No

People with the highest point totals get the visas.

people complain that the Bush Administration is too free market. But
the idea that Washington bureaucrats can figure out which skills are in
high demand is an idea straight out of the old Soviet Union. It would
be great if we could get some old communists from the politburo to
administer it, but we won’t be able to. They won’t score high enough on
the point system to get a visa.


The idea that we should base our immigration policy on "keeping the U.S. competitive" is bizarre to me. First, it implies that there are right and wrong kinds of immigrants, bureaucrats can figure out which kind is which and that the goal of immigration is to help maximize GDP. I don’ t think any of those things are true.


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