Friday, January 18, 2008

More Rust Belt Immigration

Today, there are a couple posts (here, here and here) and associated articles (here, here and here) about economic immigration to the United States. Since I'm strong advocate for public policy debate, I'm linking to a retort (published in the Youngstown Vindicator) to the champions of more H-1B visas:

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett made dire predictions in a Jan. 2 Vindicator column that the next Silicon Valley will not be in the United States due to restrictive immigration policies and that a brain drain from the United States to Europe will cause an economic Armageddon. In his hypothetical scenario, the United States would lose out in the competition for talent as the best inventors and entrepreneurs migrate to Europe.

This scaremongering is a smokescreen to hide Barrett’s desire to increase the labor supply, thereby slashing labor costs.

High-tech industries such as Intel routinely make false claims that there are shortages of qualified Americans. Anecdotal claims of shortages are touted in order to make the corporate case for increasing the number of H-1B visas. Recent studies, such as one by the Urban Institute, show the United States is creating fewer high-tech jobs than the number of qualified people who are entering the workforce.

Is there or will there be an actual shortage of talent in the United States? That's the heart of the controversy concerning H-1B and other economic entry visas. I'll leave that issue for the labor economists to sort out. Let's assume that H-1B immigrants do drive down wages and effectively displace qualified American citizens from good jobs. Is that the only effect?

We should also consider the innovation and job creation that these very immigrants may promote. Furthermore, decreasing the geographic mobility of any workers hurts labor. Captive labor fenced in by international borders is ripe for exploitation and is more vulnerable to the whims of global financial capital. The Vindicator article by Rob Sanchez is an anti-economic migrant treatise under the guise of anti-big business. Mr. Sanchez, in my view, is fundamentally anti-labor and is also guilty of scaremongering.

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