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George Borjas on Immigration: He Doesn't Like the Deal

Mark Thoma sends us to George Borjas, who is unhappy with immigration proposals:

Economist's View: Borjas on Immigration: A Lemon in the Senate: George Borjas on the immigration reform bill:

  1. Amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants.
  2. A guest-worker program that will admit 400,000 workers each year.
  3. Vague promises of border enforcement sometime in the future.
  4. A proposed change in the legal immigration system, away from the family preferences that now dominate the system and towards a point system that rewards skills.

Any “reform” that gives amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants without taking care of the underlying illegal-immigration problem is a lemon. After all, what guarantees that the current batch of 12 million illegal immigrants will not be replaced by another 12 million in just a few years? What guarantees that guest workers will not stay illegally in the United States after their visa expires? What guarantees that border enforcement will be taken seriously...? There is one dim light at the end of this dark tunnel, however. Much of the political elite in the Senate is now on record as supporting a point system that allocates entry visas on the basis of skills — a move that I have long advocated....

No bill is better than this bill.... An amnesty is an amnesty, no matter how it is packaged and spun. The guest worker program will... exacerbate the downward trajectory in the economic status of poorer workers.... [T]he Bush administration will [not] seriously enforce border security in the time they have left.

The bill neatly summarizes the intellectual flimsiness of the Bush administration — a flimsiness that has cost us dearly in so many other areas. Perhaps they can convince themselves otherwise.... But we all know that, in the end, their promises are a sham, a travesty, and a mockery of what immigration policy should be about...

Mark Thomas remarks:

I don't think there is a good answer to the immigration question. It helps the poor in Mexico raise their standard of living and that is certainly worth something. But although the evidence is mixed, the work Borjas has done indicates that immigrants do depress the wages of low-income workers and may also increase the cost of social services.... Since Borjas has his say above, and since it's a view that is more nationalistic than my own, I'll repeat this from Alex Tabarrok:

I would argue... that economists are too quick to take the nation as the relevant moral community.... Why should we cut the cake in one way, excluding some from the moral community, but not in another?... I understand individual rights and I understand [utilitarian] counting everyone equally but I see less value in counting some in and some out based on... which side of the border the actors fall on...