Saturday, May 17, 2008

THE CASE FOR OPEN BORDERS

WALL STREET JOURNAL - In "Let Them In," Jason L. Riley, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, argues the case for open borders, reminding us of the immigrant contribution to America's economy and culture, correcting various myths about legal and illegal immigration, and chiding Republicans for their restrictionist tendencies. Some excerpts:

The work-force effect: "The reason that immigrant workers tend not to elbow aside natives for jobs and depress wages has to do with the education and skills that foreigners typically bring to the U.S. labor market. Most immigrants fall into one of two categories: low- skilled laborers or high-skilled professionals. One-third of all immigrants have less than a high school education, and one-quarter hold a bachelor's or advanced degree. Most native workers, by contrast, are concentrated betwixt those two extremes. Hence, immigrant workers tend to act as complements to the native U.S. workforce rather than substitutes. There is some overlap, of course, but this skill distribution is the reason immigrants and natives for the most part aren't competing for the same positions."

The talent imperative: Immigration policies that limit industry's access to talent become ever more risky as the marketplace becomes ever more global. If we want American innovators and entrepreneurs to continue enhancing America's wealth and productivity ­ and if we want the United States to continue as the world's science and technology leader ­ better to let Apple and Google and eBay make their own personnel decisions without interference from Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs."

The political danger: "Americans may rail against illegal aliens in telephone surveys, but election results have shown time and time again that it's seldom the issue that decides someone's vote. The lesson for the GOP is that hostility to immigrants is not a political winner. That's been the lesson in the past, and given demographic trends, as well as a voting public that is more racially and ethnically tolerant than at any time in U.S. history, it's likely to be the lesson in the future."

The policy challenge: "Reasonable people agree that illegal immigration should be reduced. The question isn't whether it's a problem but how to solve it. Historically, the best results have come from providing more legal ways for immigrants to enter the country. Most of these people are not predisposed to crime or terrorists in waiting. They are economic migrants who would gladly use the front door if it were open to them. Post 9/11, knowing who's in the country has rightly taken on an urgency. But painting Latino immigrants as violent criminals or Islamofascists won't make us any safer. Nor will enforcing bad laws and policies, as opposed to reforming them. On the whole, immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability. We benefit from the labor, they benefit from the jobs. Our laws should acknowledge and reflect this reality, not deny it."

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