Speed Reads

Immigration Reform

Economist defends Trump-backed immigration bill as 'common sense'

When pressed for statistics to back up his rigid claims on immigration earlier this week, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller pointed to a study by Harvard economist George Borjas. Borjas had "opened up the old data and talked about how [low-skilled immigration] actually did reduce wages for workers," Miller told The New York Times' Glenn Thrush, who was pressing him over a new immigration proposal from Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) that is backed by President Trump.

The proposal, dubbed the RAISE Act, would severely curb legal immigration by prioritizing applicants based on skills, including whether they can speak English. Some critics posited that Trump merely wants to have fewer immigrants, not more highly skilled ones, while others noted that the idea of a merit-based immigration system is antithetical to what the U.S. has historically stood for. But writing in Politico on Friday, Borjas himself defended the plan as "a clear and transparent framework" for immigration that is just "common sense":

The Cotton-Perdue bill would divvy up the 140,000 visas now assigned to the employment preferences by using a point system similar to those adopted and used for several decades in other countries, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In rough terms, those point systems essentially grade visa applicants on the basis of personal characteristics, such as education, occupation, and age; add up the points; and grant an entry visa to those who "pass the test."

[...] In short, the bill provides a clear and transparent framework for determining which types of workers we believe to be most beneficial. And I suspect that most Americans would view the Cotton-Perdue approach as common sense. Do many of us really believe that America would benefit more by letting in a sociology professor in her 50s than by letting in a young woman with an advanced degree in computer science? [George Borjas, via Politico]

Furthermore, by prioritizing high-skilled immigrants, the bill would bring a workforce that better complements America's existing economy, Borjas writes, and result in an immigration system that is "economically more profitable." Read his entire opinion at Politico.