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Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Visas for Skilled Workers

Nicholas Kristoff (subscription):

The 1986 immigration amnesty ended up bringing in waves of unskilled workers. They care for our children and mow our lawns. But as they raise living standards for many of us, they lower the living standards of [poor] Americans...

That's a trade-off we need to face squarely. The impulse behind immigration reforms is a generosity that I admire. But the cold reality is that admitting poor immigrants often means hurting poor Americans. We can salve the pain with job programs for displaced Americans, but the fundamental trade-off is unavoidable...

So let's go ahead and regularize longtime illegals, rather than leaving them forever in the shadows. But instead of bringing in a new flood of guest workers, let's recast our generosity more toward biologists and computer programmers. The H1-B visa program enriches America by bringing in high-tech workers, but the nominal ceiling on these visas has dropped to 65,000, after temporarily rising to 195,000 in the 1990's. That's the immigration flow to expand.

OpinionJournal has an excellent response to the argument that immigrant labor hurts poor Americans.

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