America benefits tremendously from immigration. Compared to the native born, immigrants are, on average, more entrepreneurial (including the founding of some of our most successful technology companies), better educated, more likely to be in the work force, and less prone to crime.
At the same time, we cannot have unlimited immigration, particularly if we want to maintain the “melting pot” where waves of immigrants have come to share American values. The melting pot cannot work if immigrants are too numerous to be fully incorporated into society. Too large an immigrant population would also invite a political and social backlash.
We need a balanced immigration policy that captures the huge benefits of immigration, but which maintains a manageable flow and focuses on the most productive immigrant groups.
We should actively encourage the immigration of skilled and educated workers, just as is done in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is madness that our universities train a huge number of highly talented foreign students – including something like 70% of the post-graduate students in computer science – and then our immigration system discourages them from staying in America and sharing the benefits of their knowledge. We should welcome these highly trained and highly productive individuals, and their immediate families, with open arms, easy work visas and a clear path to citizenship. We can do this though a greatly expanded and simplified H1B visa program or a “points system” similar to that employed in other countries.
For unskilled workers, we need to have a generous “guest worker” program. Many sectors of our economy, such as agricultural production and processing, food service, and construction, are dependent on this immigrant labor. These workers do not displace American workers but complement them. We need to create a guest worker program which incorporates the needs of businesses and the knowledge of state and local governments. By allowing these workers into the country as guest workers, we will eliminate the need for illegal immigration and the abuses and exploitation it allows. There are plenty of examples around the world, and our own history, from which we can learn how best to design this program.
Under the guise of restricting illegal immigration, the current administration is, in fact, pursuing a xenophobic policy that is against all forms of immigration. This has never made America great and it won’t do it now. Properly done, a welcoming immigration policy is tremendously beneficial for America’s economy and society.
The proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, it goes without saying, is incredibly stupid. This will do nothing to reduce illegal Mexican immigrants, which is a shrinking population in any case, or illegal immigrants in general, a great many of whom arrive in another way and overstay visas. It will also do nothing about illegal drugs. If we are unable to keep illegal drugs out of American prisons, then to imagine that a wall along the US-Mexican border can be effective is pure fantasy.
Refugees should be treated under the same rules that apply to all immigrants. The best thing that we can do for the refugee problem is stop creating them through our foreign interventions.