Sunday, October 3, 2010

High-Skill vs. Low-Skill Labor: Would a Utopian Immigration Policy Work?

Like with many political issues in America, they rarely, if ever, are clear-cut and unambiguous. Our immigration policy is no exception to this rule. Most Americans can clearly realize that our immigration process is a broken one, but I think we don’t have a clue as to how to mitigate it.

The Hamilton Project, which is part of the Brookings Institution, recently drew up a study entitled “Ten Economic Facts About Immigration,” which attempted to “lay out the facts” for a constructive debate on the issue. I found a few flaws with the study, first and foremost being that immigrants are not a financial drain on the American government. I already touched upon this myth a few months back. The attempt to show that American living standards have improved is weak since the increase is negligible compared to the billions lost every year to immigration. Finally, I took issue with the attempt to make a causative relation between increase in immigration enforcement funding and number of unauthorized immigrants. The increase are not in any way related to one another. America has had anything but a superior immigration enforcement policy, so using wasteful spending as an indicator of ineffectiveness is misleading. Plus, the decline in unauthorized immigrants has more to do with a failing American economy than anything.

In spite of these methodological flaws, the study makes one extremely valid point which merits further explanation, which is that there are two types of immigrants: low-skilled and high-skilled. Looking at the impacts of each sector independently helps sharpen our focus of our immigration issues.

The Hamilton Project gives a breakdown of the level of education between U.S. born and foreign born. Thirty percent who are foreign born have less than a high school degree, which is approximately four times the amount of those who are U.S. born. When you take high school education foreign born Americans into account, it totals to fifty-five percent of foreign born Americans with a high school education or less. What I would like to dub as “Tier One” is what most Americans focus on when discussing the immigration debate.

However, there is a more infrequently discussed “Tier Two,” which consists of highly-skilled immigrants. Approximately eighteen percent of those who are foreign born have Bachelor’s degrees, and about nine percent have Master’s Degrees. What is most intriguing is that the rate which foreign born citizens have PhD’s versus their U.S. born counterparts is almost double.

Being cognizant of these two tiers is exceptionally important because in general terms, level of education is a primary indicator of intelligence and potential contributions that an individual can make to society. You won’t catch me saying this too often, especially in light of their single-payer healthcare, but I think in this instance, we should emulate Canada’s policies. The skill composition of Canada’s immigrants is much more desirable because they are more selective in their immigration policies.

There are certain exigent circumstances, such as with refugee cases, in which Americans should open its doors to the “poor and the hungry.” However, I think in terms of to whom we grant citizenship, America should raise its standards of qualifications. An immigrant coming to this country should either have a good education or a skill (e.g., computer science) that would be productive for society. We technically cannot eliminate unskilled labor because there is still a demand for such labor. However, it certainly should be kept to a minimum. As the study shows, immigrants are thirty percent more likely to start businesses and four times more likely to be granted patents. Unskilled labor workers neither have the competency to start a business nor have the intellect to create a patent that will contribute to American ingenuity, which means that a disproportionately high amount of American progress comes from highly-skilled, foreign born citizens.

Therefore, what I propose is two-fold. One is to minimize our acceptance of unskilled labor because L-rd only knows we have enough of that in this country! Most of the costs related to immigrants are either tied up in welfare, entitlement programs, health care, incarceration, and education, costs that the poorer immigrants primarily, if not solely, trigger. By drafting up a more selective immigration process, we can cut back costs in these respective sectors of the government. The second is to provide incentives not only for highly-skilled foreign labor to come to the country to acquire an American education, but also to stay in this country to continue being productive members of society.

In case you couldn't tell from the tone of this article, I am not a big fan of stupid people.  As a matter of fact, I cannot stand stupidity.  Education is one of the primary factors that determines success.  An educated society with individuals that have good heads on their shoulders would eliminate a lot of the world's problems since the world's problems either stem from ignorance or stupidity.

The main issue with trying to implement this on a sincere level is that it is too utopian.  I can make anything sound theory.  Communism, for example, sounds very nice in theory.  When you put it in practice, however, it has become a very different beast.  The reason why it has never worked is because in order to use any property whatsoever, you need the permission of the entire commune (i.e., the nation).  Because this is not feasible, communism has always led to a one-party nation that attempts to control everything and commits more egregious acts than it had ever intended.

This immigration policy would be no different.  Again, I would love a world filled with competency.  The issue is that our country is rampant with incompetency.  Look no further than Congress.  These inept people would be the ones to actually try to implement these new laws.  Much like Communism, this utopian notion would backfire into some systematic, government-based form of active eugenics.  It would end up to be something like Nazi Germany.  This is because when you have a utopian ideal, it never takes the imperfections of man into consideration, which is why utopias have historically never worked.  I would still suggest that America better emulates Canada's immigration policy, but hope that if it actually took educated immigrants into consideration when drafting immigration policy, that America does not lose its sense of morality in the process.

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