The Spectacle Blog

An Immigrant’s Family vs. His Job Skills

By on 2.2.06 | 10:13AM

Ilya Shapiro, frustrated at the difficulty of getting a Green Card, writes:

It is perhaps self-serving of me to point this out, but I think this country would be better off if it were possible to get a green card by some method other than through family ties or a difficult-to-obtain employer sponsorship (on which more later). As it stands now, even those worthy skilled professionals who secure a quota-restricted temporary worker visa (H1-B) have to leave upon that visa's expiration, with no mechanism for applying for permanent residence -- unlike in every other immigrant-accepting country in the world.
It is indeed crazy that an American relative counts for more than a law degree, and this reminded me of an interesting paper (.pdf) that I read the other day on why immigrants from Mexico assimilate more slowly than immigrants from other countries. Its conclusion:
The source of the problem seems to be US immigration policy. By admitting large numbers of Mexicans relative to other groups on a family rather than job basis, the US selects a group of immigrants from Mexico who are already at a disadvantage. The large numbers allow highly concentrated ethnic enclaves to form, which is not conducive to assimilation. Additionally, the fact that such a small proportion of Mexican immigrants are admitted on an employment preference basis means that the average level of skills of incoming Mexicans is lower than that for other immigrant groups.

Mexico is a large country with an abundant supply of highly skilled potential immigrants to the US. Changes in US immigration selection policy that moved in the direction of employment based preferences for Mexican immigrants would likely close the gap between assimilation of Mexicans and other immigrants to the United States.

Why was I reading this paper? I wanted to learn about the views of the author, Edward P. Lazear, as he has just been chosen to chair the President's Council of Economic Advisers, replacing new Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. It would be nice to see Lazear's insights on this issue gain influence.
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