Trump’s NON-Reversal in Last Night’s Debate (and Rubio’s)

Lots of comment in blogs and e-mail today about Trump’s seemingly reversing himself on the H-1B issue in last night’s Republican presidential primary debate. But he didn’t really reverse himself, because he had already done so back in August. After posting the best platform on H-1B I’d ever seen by a major presidential candidate, Trump backpedaled the very next day, saying that he hadn’t been referring to the H-1Bs hired from among foreign students at U.S. universities. It is this group of H-1Bs that are hired by the Intels and Googles, which Trump was alluding to last night in statements such as “I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley.”

I stated at the time that Trump’s sudden reversal then was apparently due to the fact that “Someone got to him.” Given that last night Trump referred to Mark Zuckerberg, who has been outspoken in support of liberalized policies on H-1B and immigration in general (and of whom Trump had been critical), as “Mark,” we see that the one who “got to him” may have in fact been “Mark.”

I certainly don’t mean to defend Trump here, but it’s hard for me to understand why so many of my readers have been contacting me about his supposed “reversal” last night.

Rubio, on the other hand, is perceived has having changed course in the other direction in the debate, towards more caution concerning H-1B, and again that perception is probably sadly naive. Like most politicians (though unlike Trump), any statement Rubio makes on a major issue is the result of deliberate calculation, and on the subject of immigration, Rubio’s calculations are made with the advice of a top expert — prominent immigration attorney Enrique Gonzalez. H-1B law is byzantine, and it is easy to come up with reforms that are (by design) just as loophole-laden as the present H-1B/green card statutes, but look good to the public.

First, Rubio stated last night that employers found guilty of violating H-1B law should be permanently banned from the program. This is a favorite ruse of the industry PR people, obfuscating the issue by implying that the problem of H-1B abuse is mainly one of lack of enforcement of the law — rather than the gaping loopholes in the law itself. He also obfuscates the discussion by claiming a need for training, implying that we have a tech labor shortage and thus further implying a need for more H-1Bs.

Rubio proposed that employers be required to advertise a job for 180 days before hiring an H-1B to fill the position. Sounds good, but the industry would never allow enactment of such a provision, and there are lots of ways that Rubio could support “reform” while still keeping industry happy. For instance, some years ago there was a provision in which employers in certain sectors with (alleged) labor shortages, notably tech, would be preapproved for hiring foreign workers. This provision could be revived, so that while a180-day rule would be on the books, it would include a huge exception of this type. Other past proposals that could be revived would give automatic approval to employers that had a record of hiring foreign workers without violating the laws; this would dovetail nicely with Rubio’s vows last night to come down harshly on violators, while doing nothing about the current loopholes that allow everyone to abuse the programs scot free.

It’s interesting to see H-1B brought up at all in a presidential debate, a first to my knowledge. This is undoubtedly due to the negative publicity generated by the cases at Disney and SCE, in which Americans were replaced by H-1Bs. But I have warned that such publicity has its downside, which is to draw attention away from the fact that abuse of these programs pervades the entire industry. In particular, I’ve noted that the notion that the H-1Bs hired as foreign students are the “good” H-1Bs will lead to end-runs around the H-1B cap. We are seeing that in the DHS proposal to expand the OPT program, and more perniciously, congressional proposals to give fast-track green cards to foreign students.

This latter point alone would be enough for Rubio to make fingers-crossed-behind-the-back promises to “reform” H-1B — while intending to develop a parallel program that is just as harmful to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

In some ways, I actually am admirer of Rubio, but to borrow my favorite quote from Senator Grassley regarding H-1B, “Nobody should be fooled.” Rubio’s seeming new sympathy for American programmers and engineers should keep in mind this report of a statement of a Rubio staffer in a New Yorker article

“‘There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,’ a Rubio aide told me. ‘There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly.’”

I myself have stated often how important it is to hire GOOD programmers, people who are really sharp. But that comment above is way out of line. I know plenty of very high-quality Americans, especially those over 35, who face real challenges in the labor market, and lose jobs to H-1Bs. Even in the Disney case, it has been reported that the U.S. workers had gotten stellar performance reviews not long before being laid off. If that staffer’s view reflects that of Rubio, his comments about adding worker protections are worthless.


53 thoughts on “Trump’s NON-Reversal in Last Night’s Debate (and Rubio’s)

  1. >Rubio proposed that employers be required to advertise a job for 180 days
    >before hiring an H-1B to fill the position.

    Meaningless. There are tons of companies, even small ones, who run the same recruiting ads continuously, for months or years at a time, and often without hiring anyone.


    • Back in the late 1990’s I used to see ads that had an incredible amount of requirements with regard to computer languages and techniques, computer platforms and experience. One ad had a requirement for Java experience was a little longer than Java had been released by Sun. I later saw an explanation that these job ads were so they could legitimately say, with regard to any American applicant – you don’t meet the requirements. And presumably, no one in the government would ever to a check on the resume of an Indian H1-B which showed that they did.


  2. I actually drove to Reno today to ask Trump in person to clarify his debate statements. I was able to ask him. See for yourself, I’m at 1:28.

    The question:

    There is no shortage of talented US tech workers yet we hook up Zuckerberg with cheap foreign labor. What will you do to lower the H1B quotas and put American college grads first?

    My question likely saved him from a NumbersUSA downgrade.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan, thanks for asking that question. Looks like Bernie and Trump are the only two candidates looking out for the American worker.


      • I think Bernie Sanders is, as Trump would say “weak on immigration”. And when you get down to it, Trump is “weak on legal immigration” and since he wants to do nothing about punishing employers of illegals – punishment such that they stop – he is actually weak on illegal immigration too. He won’t be able to deport anyone – the outcry would be massive and judges would be in high gear shutting it down.

        Both have talked about job export. Bernie probably has a better grasp of what is involved in actually trying to get jobs back from another country. He voted on something with regard to the World Trade Organization. But whether he could do anything about it is another matter. And, given our CEOs and their relationship with government – I could forsee that if 3 million manufacturing jobs came back, the CEOs would lobby for a special immigration of 3 million people to fill jobs that “we just can’t find Americans willing or qualified to do”.

        Trump on the other hand will say day after day that “he knows the best negotiators, and some are horrible people, but who cares”, suggesting that the only reason American companies exported so many jobs to China and Mexico, etc., is because the President of China was a better negotiator, and not the fact that people in China will work for two dollars an hour. Just as he didn’t know what an H1-B visa was, I don’t think Trump knows what the WTO is and how it governs trade among its massive list of members. I also don’t think he realizes that ambassadors like Caroline Kennedy, who he likes to suggest is over in negotiating trade deals, won’t be able to overturn NAFTA and TPP and all these other “non-trade” deals (as in non-trade related things that deal with corporate concerns with regard to patent and copyright protection, and issues related to off-shoring of jobs).

        The one thing Trump or Sanders could do is try and extract voluntary quotas as was instituted by the Japanese automakers in the early 1980s when they were really hurting the US manufacturers. And possibly the tax code could be used to discourage job-offshoring, but Trump doesn’t sound like he wants to do anything but lower corporate taxes.


    • Thanks for the question, but the answer is gibberish, outside of some unfashionable elitism by Mr. Trump, do we really want DIFFERENT LAWS for Ivy League graduates?

      Do we really want different laws for foreigners just because they went to a US school at all?


      • Trump’s point, I assume, was that we should take “the best and the brightest,” and “first in his class at Harvard” is presumably evidence of being best/brightest. I am assuming that he would also want to take someone who was first in his class at one of the IITs etc. too, if he thought about it (though clearly, he hasn’t given any of this careful thought).

        The industry has indeed pushed for giving special breaks to the foreign students at U.S. schools, and in fact they rarely hire directly from foreign schools. To me, this shows once again that they aren’t so interested in getting “the best and the brightest” after all.


        • Well, many prominent Silicon Valley companies have bragged that they ONLY take students from the top five US schools or whatever, but that attitude is vanishingly rare out in the real world. I have certainly seen Indian IT workers from Indian schools only that I have never heard of, hired for non-Silicon Valley jobs.


          • I’m pretty sure that there is no major SV company that takes only students from the top schools. I can cite counterexamples right away from Google, Facebook, Oracle, Apple and so on.


  3. Isn’t it possible though that Trump hasn’t really paid attention to “his” immigration plan and he’s really just focused on winning the primary by uttering anything that might resonate with the voters (nothing wrong in that)? The plan that Trump has put out was pretty detailed and seemed like it was something Sessions might have written. The fact is that immigration in general (legal and illegal) is *not* popular with the American public by a large margin and taking a populist stance in this matter (and also on trade) is an easy way to stay on top of the polls. Other candidates would put out similar plans if their campaigns were not dependent on rich donors.

    As a former H1-B myself (I’m a permanent resident now), I do agree with you that foreign students coming in to the US in general are not the best and the brightest or at most one can say that some of them are as good as American students but definitely not better. I’m sure there would have been tons of Americans who could have done the job I did (I have an MS in CS from the University of Texas) but I am obviously glad I found a job that paid me well and allowed me to get my green card. But don’t you think that if you say that we should only allow the “best and the brightest” to immigrate here then you’re basically proposing ending legal immigration as we know it, which is fine. There is already a visa category (O-1) for the “geniuses” from around the world — nobel prize winners, exceptional athletes etc. Are you basically proposing that that is the only category that should be allowed even for the tech field?


    • Yes, I’m basically saying limit it to the O-1 level. However, I have repeatedly called for the coverage of O-1 to be broadened.

      Alternatively, put some real teeth into the prevailing wage requirement for H-1B and green cards. One proposal has been to define it to be the 75th percentile for wages for the given occupation and region.


      • But my point is that isn’t the “best and brightest” clause really subjective if you decide to broaden the O-1 category. You’ll admit that even some of your fellow professors who are foreign born would not qualify for a green card under these rules even though they have PhDs and are obviously smart.

        The prevailing wage seems more effective in the sense that you can say that if a company is willing to pay such a high salary to a foreign worker when he can easily get an American worker for cheap, then *that* person has to be special.


        • I meant that (a) an expanded O-1 and (b) taking only those with high salary offers to be the same policy, just two different ways of reaching the same goal, which would be that we take only the really outstanding people.

          I don’t regard your professor example as valid. I do NOT believe we should take as immigrants all smart people. I have nothing against smart people (though not all professors are smart, by the way), but too many is too many. Back in 1989, an internal NSF report advocated bringing in a lot of foreign STEM students, with the EXPLICIT GOAL of holding down PhD salaries. It also forecast that the stagnant wages would drive domestic students away from pursuing doctorates. H-1B was enacted the next year, and the NSF projection came true; more than 50% of PhD students in U.S. computer science programs today are foreign. What I am saying is this: Without H-1B and the EB-1 green cards, very few of my fellow professors today would be immigrants (at least not employment-based immigrants), and thus your comment about my foreign-born fellow professors would not be relevant. There is nothing wrong with having lots of immigrant professors, but there is a LOT wrong with having so many that natives are driven out of the field.


          • I agree with Ralph Nader on this: It is cultural imperialism to take all the highly educated persons from 3rd world countries. During the Ebola crisis, one problem was lack of physicians, and part of that was due to the FACT that 2/3 of Sierra Leon physicians are in the US, some working as lower-status medical workers, for more money. In many cases, persons are educated in 3rd world countries to fulfill needs there. It is not right that we take those persons here. We have a huge number of Indian physicians. That is because we do not train enough doctors here. Every Indian physician here is hired instead of training and hiring an American kid who wants to be a doctor. That’s wrong.

            Liked by 1 person

      • How about, instead of OPT students working without paying social security, instead they pay DOUBLE social security, for the Americans they put out of work, not just for their social security but for their unemployment as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are correct – Senator Jeff Sessions wrote it Trump didn’t both to read it, and/or understand it as he certainly doesn’t appear to agree with it in principle. The fact that there is a shot at Zuckerberg in it, and Trump said he wanted to help get Zuckerberg foreign workers highlights the fact that he is unaware what it says.

      Legal immigration and illegal immigration are a big negative to a lot of people like myself, but there is also large support for both. According to Gallup (July 20, 2015), only 7 percent of Americans think that immigration is the most problem facing the country today. They gave people a list of 15 issues last spring and asked them to rank them and immigration came out “mid-range”.

      But in my opinion, there are few problems facing Americans that immigration doesn’t make worse. Even if immigrants magically created more jobs than they took as people will say “some studies show”, just the population growth alone is a big negative and makes various problems worse.


  4. > ‘There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,’ a Rubio aide told me….

    > I know plenty of very high-quality Americans, especially those over 35, who face real challenges in the labor market, and lose jobs to H-1Bs.

    I likewise know many such high-quality Americans. What makes it worse is that the “not cutting it” line is often given to them as the reason for their difficulty. Of course, no employer wants to openly admit that they are cutting employees to make way for younger workers who are cheaper and easier to manipulate. Instead they will try to place all of the blame on the employee, even in the employee’s own mind. One such worker pointed me to the article at about workplace mobbing and, from his description, he was experiencing it.

    Even for those employees who aren’t let go, the “not cutting it” line is often lorded over them. I worked in the industry for over 20 years with little trouble meeting schedules or expectations. But in the last 10 years or so, schedules have gotten tighter and tighter with more and more of the employees failing to meet them. The implication is that we’re not cutting it and should be more than willing to work extra hours to make up for our shortcomings. From what I can gather, this is becoming more and more common in the industry.

    Regarding the “not cutting it” theme, another issue has long occurred to me. From all of the evidence I’ve seen, I think that there is ageism in the industry and the H-1B and OPT programs are abused to bring in cheap workers who can be more easily manipulated. But suppose that all of those issues could be resolved and all competition for jobs in the computer industry was based purely on talent. I think that we would still face the issue described in the following thought experiment:

    Suppose that programmers in every country have talent which is normally distributed with the same mean. Then suppose that there are one million native programmers and nine million foreign programmers who wish to work in the United States. Assuming that both groups are normally distributed with the same mean (and standard deviation), then it would seem that there are 900,000 foreign programmers in the top 10 percent and the same number of native programmers in the lower 90 percent. Would it be a good and justified policy to replace those 900,000 lower 90 percent of native programmers with the 900,000 top 10 percent of foreign programmers? Based strictly on talent, you could say that those 900,000 native programmers no longer make the cut.


    • Your thought experiment has some problems. It assumes for example that the top people in other countries want to come here. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of anecdotal evidence, both personally and in print, that the contrary is true.


      • I agree that my thought experiment is overly simplistic. I have worked with some very senior foreign programmers who are very good but they may not be that representative of H-1B programmers. Also, the very best programmers who are in the highest demand in their countries may have no desire to come here. Finally, I think that the idea that all programming talent can be ranked on simple numerical scale is false. If you don’t give native programmers any on-the-job training and give them a chance to excel, many may not.

        Still, my main point is that I think the government has some responsibility to those citizens who played by the rules, going into a career that, judging by their grades and their initial work experience, they seemed to be very good at. They shouldn’t be left to just “twist in the wind” because some dynamic has changed and employers now claim that these older workers just “can’t cut it”. But I agree that the place to start is addressing the abuse in the H-1B and OPT systems.


        • I have the same thoughts as you. When they were exporting all these jobs overseas one of the reassurances was that we would instead do jobs non-manufacturing work – like programming. You would think that universities would play a bigger role in seeing that their graduates are employed. But maybe they don’t want to have to start listing what percentage of their students get employed in their major field, or else risk losing a lot of students.


          • CS faculty generally have the impression that their graduates are highly employable. To some extent that impression is correct for new graduates, but much less so for those 10 or 15 years out of school. The faculty don’t know the latter aspect, but would they care if they did know? I’m not confident they would. They would believe the line of the industry lobbyists that the older programmers simply haven’t kept up with their skills.


      • I’m sure that a whole bunch of European folks are not at all interested in coming here. Life in Europe is much better than in the US.


    • agreed on the last part.
      this is the “flood gates” that I talk about frequently at kaaw.

      America has 315 million people and a total nonfarm payroll of about 142 million of which 42 million are the better educated white collar jobs.

      China has 1 billion and so does india.

      If each country has the same percentage (31%) that America has, we quickly end up with 310 million from each country that desperately need the jobs that America has.

      Think about that for a minute.
      620 million educated white collar workers wanting the jobs that 42 million currently have.

      And then factor in that we are sending jobs to other countries rather than creating them here in america.

      The only solution I can see is that each country has to create enough jobs for the people of their country and more.

      But right now each country seems to be following Americas lead by (a) sending jobs to other countries and (b) importing temporary workers on temporary non immigrant visas to displace those in their own country.

      And this decreases the quantity of jobs and the disposable income which decreases the ability of people to buy things which decreases the corporations ability to sell things which is as stupid a plan as I have ever seen in my life.


  5. Marco Rubio strikes me as a classic Florida con man type: glib, good looking, more into ‘quick scores’ than hard work. Rather than rein in the often awful for profit education industry, he wants to loosen accreditation further. For profit edu has been very profitable for politicians, especially Republicans. The government is starting to pay for some boot camps and MOOCs.

    “Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been talking on the campaign trail about busting the accreditation “cartel,” introduced a bill last month with Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, to create a voluntary system of accreditation.”

    A related article:


  6. Professor Matloff, in a previous blog post, you once referred to H1-B visas as a market distortion. I disagree with that assessment.

    What about the biggest market distortion in world: closed borders?

    Please read: “Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?”

    That American workers can be undercut by foreign labor is what should happen in a free market: this increases competition and productivity. No one is entitled to job until retirement, and that Americans had that illusion reflects the unique geopolitical situation of American after WWII.

    It is no mistake that the American tech sector is driving so much innovation – the workers in that sector come all around the world and are truly the best in the world.

    Overall, the world benefits from increased production.

    So, please, stop railing against increased tech immigration or increased immigration in general. Let people, including low-skilled workers, live and work wherever they please.


    • Thanks for the thoughtful remarks. But may I respectfully point out that they are rather oversimplified?

      First of all, the average quality of the foreign tech workers is less than that of the U.S. natives. See my EPI paper, and the references that it cites. So when the natives are displaced (I didn’t say “replaced”) directly and indirectly by the immigrants, that is a net loss to American innovation and productivity! Any American, whether native or naturalized citizen, should be alarmed by that.

      Second, there are winners and losers with any policy. You have to ask WHO gets to pick up those trillion-dollar bills from the sidewalk. (Hint: It’s not you or me.)


      • Professor Matloff,

        I agree with you that the H1-B immigrants are usually the richest and most well-connected, not necessarily the best and brightest (this is true in all walks of life, not just immigration). To get a H1-B you usually have to get a masters in the US, the cost of which is too high for middle-class foreigners (~$50,000). You don’t see many Dalits in Silicon Valley, despite India’s well-known affirmative action practices in education.

        I would disagree with you is that H1-Bs cause a net loss to American innovation and productivity. This defies the most basic economic analysis.

        – How can hundreds of thousands of upper-class foreigners competing for jobs with Americans not make American tech workers up their game?

        More info:

        – You accuse the tech industry of ageism, and not without merit. But cheaper, younger workers are more profitable for the company than older ones who usually have more health/family issues. Even if it strikes you as morally wrong, how can you say it doesn’t increase productivity?


        • You seem to have a higher opinion of the upper class than I do. 🙂

          I think you missed my point, which was that replacing more talented people by less talented people is a net loss. Any economist would agree with that.

          As to justifying ageism, hey, fine. Let’s see the tech industry go to Congress and openly say that they want H-1Bs because they are younger and thus cheaper. I dare them. 🙂


          • By that ‘less talented’ logic, the presence of low-skilled undocumented immigrants would be a net loss to the productivity to the American economy. However, all economic analysis shows this is not the case:


            You yourself developed ‘an affinity for Latinos’ during your early childhood, and I presume you think undocumented immigration helps the economy (as do I). So why don’t you apply the same principles to H1-B immigration?

            That foreign students are ‘less talented’ than their American peers is based on your own biased research, and even contradicts some statements you made on this blog:

            “I’ve said before that (a) software development (even at “your” level) doesn’t require any special talent, or for that matter, any special education. In that sense, most people in the field, including you, are in fact overpaid.”

            So which one is it? If it is:

            (a) Anybody can do tech jobs (which I agree with), then that means cheaper foreigners add more competition to the labor market, increasing productivity.

            (b) Less talented foreigners displace Americans in the tech sector. Then the companies that hire less talented people in critical sectors will go belly-up, and the more talented Americans will find jobs elsewhere.

            You ignore fundamental economic tenets that Adam Smith originally talked about — division of labor. That there are cheap foreigners to do the landscaping and the menial computer programming forces specialization, leading to higher economic output. It’s no secret the tech industry with it’s high competition is driving American innovation.

            There are 886,052 foreign undergraduate and graduate students in the United States. These students are competing with each other and other Americans for those visa jobs. These students pay high tuition and are young (i.e, they are a positive to the welfare state). Your statement that H1-B immigrants lower economic output is completely absurd, and I think you know it.

            What you want is a protected economy, where your national origin gives an extreme leg up in the labor market (like race used to in the past). Nativists don’t want any foreign competition to “drive down wages”, and exhibit “I got mine” attitude when not allowing foreign labor to compete.

            That’s a nationalist point of view, which dominates the discourse in a certain segment of the population. That’s fine, but don’t say H1-B visas distort the free market. The biggest market distortion in the world are closed borders.


          • Glad to hear you’re reading my material, but my oh my, you certainly are being selective.

            I’ve written repeatedly that low-skilled immigration, legal or illegal, brings great harm to the Latino community. In fact, my favorite quote in that regard is from Antonia Hernandez, then president of the Latino advocacy group MALDEF: “…migration, legal and undocumented, does have an impact on our economy…(in) competition within the Latino community…There is an issue of wage depression, as in the garment industry, which is predominantly immigrant, of keeping wages down because of the flow of traffic of people.”

            If you think my EPI paper on the low quality of the foreign students is biased, then tell me where you think the flaws are. And tell me whether you think the similar research that I cite is biased too, conducted by prominent economists.

            I have indeed said repeatedly that programming doesn’t require a CS degree. What counts is being highly logical, being a good problem solver, and of course enthusiasm for the activity. And I’ve said repeatedly, including just the other day, that it is vital to hire only GOOD programmers.

            To my knowledge, there is no country in the world that has open borders. EVERY nation puts restrictions on immigration, and yes, the restrictions are imposed to PROTECT the people already there. That’s why, for instance, we screen out potential immigrants who are known to have tuberculosis or a criminal record, to PROTECT the people already here, whether native or not.

            And again: When you talk about helping “the economy,” you must ask who the winners and losers are. Just adding to the GDP doesn’t say a thing about the well-being of most people.


          • If you think immigration, legal or undocumented, is a net negative to the economy, then there is not much we’re agree on. There is a host of data showing younger workers prop up welfare programs and on aggregate don’t necessarily displace native workers:



            I’ll definitely have a more detailed look at your paper if I find time. But simple question — if the tech workers are of lower quality and don’t compensate for their lower quality by their lower wages, why would companies hire them?? If it didn’t increase the companies’ productivity, why would they do it?

            From my perspective, the reason ‘they’ (the 1%) can use foreign labor to undercut American workers and enrich themselves is because such a huge market distortion (borders) exists in the first place. The world allows capital to move freely but not labor. This creates arbitrage opportunities like offshoring.

            The reason we have borders is because most voters are naturally xenophobic. Even in India there is much concern about undocumented Bangladeshi immigration. Look up “The Myth of the Rational Voter” by Bryan Caplan. He also makes several good points here:

            “How much would total production rise under open borders? Every economist who asks the question reaches an astronomical answer. A typical estimate is that global free migration would double global production. If the U.S. alone opened its borders, the global effect would naturally be smaller, but the national effect would be even larger.

            How is vastly higher production in your self-interest? The obvious reason: More stuff produced means more stuff consumed. This is not trickle-down economics; it is Niagara Falls economics. Production is what distinguishes the rich world of today from the wretched world of the past. If half the workforce suddenly retired, it would be bad for you.

            Production always has its naysayers. When driverless cars arrive, you can count on people to complain that they’re putting truck-drivers out of work. But by this logic, we’d be richer if law-makers in the 19th-century banned the tractor. The fundamental truth of economic growth: While innovation often hurts immediate competitors, it is the fountainhead of rising prosperity.”


            Morally, it is wrong to limit a person’s ability to travel and work because they happened to be born on the wrong side of an imaginary line.

            Let the free market rein and let the chips fall where they may. A lot of people in tech share my beliefs, and that’s why the industry promotes immigration through all possible means. I believe in true free markets (unlike the crony capitalism we have now) and individual liberty will lead to increased prosperity — do you, my fellow Americans?


          • You would do well to keep in mind Keynes’ famous quip:’If you were to lay all the economists of the world end-to-end, they would never reach a conclusion.”:-)This is especially true for immigration research. Your citation in your last post, which I looked at briefly, was really awful, making all the classic errors.

            If you insist on referring to “the” economy, then you and I have nothing to discuss.

            Contrary to your portrayal of the tech industry CEOs etc. as free marketeers, they are anything but that. In particular, they love the current green card process and its long waits, because they want immobile workers.

            Finally, are you REALLY saying we shouldn’t screen for TB and criminal records?


          • The H-1Bs are FAR less talented than Americans. I have had the terrible experience of having to supervise them, and they are simply incapable of independent work in many cases. The English is horrible. I am working with a East Asian cardiologist, who cannot tell the difference between a noun and an adjective. Over and over, H-1Bs are unable to write, speak, or creatively program without someone leading them by the nose.


          • That quote was actually from the socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw… not someone who I’d put any value in for economic opinions.

            You can find economists diverging on many issues, but as Bryan Caplan said there is widespread agreement of immigration. Here are some facts from the EPI (the institute you yourself cited):

            “But for native-born workers, the effects tend to be very small, and on average, modestly positive.14 This is useful for reminding policymakers that native-born workers have little to fear as far as immigration’s labor market impact is concerned.”



            The only major anti-immigration think-tank I can of is the Center For Immigration Studies, which has roots in white supremacist ideology.

            There are many tech leaders who sympathize with the open borders argument. Here’s Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, citing the same website I did:

            You like to discuss the minutiae of H1-B policy here, but ignore the wider inequity and market distortion of borders. The current policy does make workers immobile, which is why I support making it easier to immigrate and work. You want to further restrict immigration.

            America was built on immigration … in the past, people complained about the Irish stealing the jobs and the Jews only hiring within their own ethnicity. History does like to repeat itself.


          • First of all, you didn’t answer my question: Do you believe we should not screen immigrants for TB, criminal records and so on?

            Now, you mentioned EPI and CIS. I know people in both organizations quite, and you’re making statements based on glimpses you can get from the Web.

            Let’s take EPI first. The old quip about laying economists end-to-end without their reaching a conclusion actually applies within EPI. Heidi Shierholz is their pro-immigration person. And EPI has strongly supported legalizing the undocumented.

            On the other hand, another author of that same “fact sheet” (which is selective in the questions it poses, by the way), Daniel Costa, has been strongly critical of H-1B, and, as you’ve seen, so has EPI in general, with EPI publishing a number of studies, op-eds and so on that are very negative about the visa. If you want to say that EPI is contradicting itself, by protecting high-skilled workers but not (legal) low-skilled ones, this is something you’ll have to take up with them.

            Concerning CIS, forgive me, but is someone paying you to write these things? If so, your patron is not getting much for their money. The “supremacist” charges against CIS come from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is an odd bird, to say the least. They were originally formed to aid poor Southern blacks, but later apparently realized they could get much more funding from focusing on immigration. They in turn seem to have sensed that the best way to get funding on immigration is to make outrageous charges against CIS director Mark Krikorian. I’ve known Mark for years, and he is one of the most decent, unprejudiced people I’ve ever known. It is especially outrageous that SPLC was charging racism against a guy whose ethnic group was the victim of one of the worst genocides in history.

            As to Collison, I would ask him the same question I asked you: Does he support eliminating screening of potential immigrants for TB, criminal records and so on?


        • Productivity alone will not buy you a empty beer can.
          we need jobs, and these people that you say are making it better for Americans in America are NOT creating any jobs

          As you can see, private industry is NOT creating any jobs.

          And neither is government

          When you have a finite job market and you import millions of young temporary workers on non immigrant visas, people will get displaced and right now it is Americans in America and this simply is not good for any country to let this happen to the citizens.


          • A sensible level of immigration can be helpful to the US. But when hundreds of thousands of foreign student and foreign workers (this may actually be over 1 million) are “needed” or are “supposed to create more jobs”, I smell a racket or scam.


        • Abhishek,

          Your argument has so many holes, it’s like a sieve.

          You have performed poorly in this debate. You came in swinging widly but did not connect. To his credit, Prof Matloff has been gentlemanly, hospitable & welcoming to opinion and in my opinion, has let you off easy.

          Let me clear a lot of things up for you:

          1. H1-B visas and other work visas are a US labor market distortion artificially created by government & business. Without these work visas, foreign workers would not have been able to be forced upon the US labor market and you are arguing against the one construct that has allowed foreign workers to immigrate to this country. These work visas legitimized the use of foreign workers here in the US. Without this legitimacy, companies like Disney would not have a legal shield to hide behind from lawsuits and the public backlash. Instead, what they did is ruled “legal” and plaintiffs or Americans that have been negatively affected are told to “F” off.

          2. Fully open borders is a utopian fantasy. It’s like communism – it looks good on paper but fails in actual implementation. That said, there are very few countries that have totally “closed borders” and for you to accuse the USA of having closed borders is just ridiculous. Did you know that the USA accepts more immigrants than other countries? Let’s talk closed borders: North Korea for example has closed borders. Have you gone to the North Korean government and urged them to open their borders? If you are against closed borders and any measures to prevent upward mobility of the international work force, are you doing anything (like speak up to the Indian goverment) about supporting Bangladeshi migrants coming into India freely? You are from a country with a caste system where people from lower castes are prevented from upward mobility while you were able to emigrate. Have you urged your fellow Indians to disband the caste system so lower caste Indians have the same opportunities as you? If not, then you are not in a position to come here and lecture us.

          3. There is no such thing as a free market. A “free” market as you and other free market capitalists and libertarians envision is not free. It comes at a cost. The cost in instability/destabilization and chaos. “Free markets” is just utopian fantasy BS. You’re a fan of online research – go look up GATT and WTO. Let’s talk scenarios: If an American can to to Walmart and can buy products made in China for 2/3 the price of an American product or buy a Ford truck for $20K instead of $30K since it was made in Mexico, by itself it’s good, but if that American doesn’t have a job because his/her manufacturing job went to China or Mexico, is that overall a good thing or a bad thing for free markets? When Apple sends its manufacturing to China, thousands of Americans lose jobs and Apple makes a $200 billion profit, which sits in offfshore bank accounts, not being put to use. Who benefits from this? If Apple kept its manufacturing here in the US, Apple would make only $150 billion in profit then have to pay $50 billion in taxes, so it will only have $100 billion in profit. $50 billion goes to American workers and the other $50 billion goes to the US government for use in the country’s infrastructure. Bottom line is the money stays here and is put to use. Which is better?


        • Abhishek:

          “..most people in the field, including you, are in fact overpaid.”
          I have developed systems and applications that have made or saved companies millions of dollars. If I built an ecommerce website/application for $100K and it made millions of dollars, or if I built a mobile app for $75K and it became a half billion dollar company, I would not call this being overpaid. Rather, I would call this being underpaid.

          “There are many tech leaders who sympathize with the open borders argument. “
          Of course. They want their CHEAP LABOR.

          There is a host of data showing younger workers prop up welfare programs and on aggregate don’t necessarily displace native workers:
          When an H1-B worker goes home to India after 6 years they get to take whatever paid to Social Security. Displacing native workers is exactly what happened at Disney, SCE, Fossil, etc. You’re getting so desperate, you’re just throwing out all these lies and you have lost any shred of credibility you had at the start.

          replacing more talented people by less talented people is a net loss
          This is true. I have talked to a lot of business people & entrepreneurs who said that they had to throw out and start from scratch their software projects that they had build by Indians. A nightmare in a lot of cases.

          Your statement that H1-B immigrants lower economic output is completely absurd
          This statement is completely absurd. The business people & entrepreneurs I mention above that had to throw out and start from scratch, had to pay twice – a second time to American programmers to get it done right. I worked with this H1-B worker at a Fortune 500 company and she constantly delayed everyone and the project because she couldn’t get things done. Her incompetence directly lowered the output & productivity of the development team. The project manager/director was about to have a heart attack from all the stress of depending on her getting her task for the team to move forward. There was also another H1-B worker, from Yemen. He was a hack at coding but good at politics and BS. He would write stupid functions like UpdateProductA() and UpdateProductB() , instead of UpdateProduct(var ProductId).

          ..when the natives are displaced directly and indirectly by the immigrants, that is a net loss to American innovation and productivity
          This is a bit more complex. American does not have a monopoly on innovation. Some American innovation has been from immigrants. Nikola Tesla was from eastern Europe, Einstein from Germany. Google and WhatsApp cofounders are immigrants. Steve Jobs had a Syrian dad. The problem is I can only name a few, maybe 10 if I had to think hard about it, and maybe 50 if I researched online. But definitely not 800,000 students or the over 1 million foreign workers on work visas. Some contribute to American innovation but they’re not all genuises. The key phrase is “net loss” and I don’t have a formula to properly calculate that.

          “If you think immigration, legal or undocumented, is a net negative to the economy, then there is not much we’re agree on.”
          This is a straw man argument and you know it. No one said this. It’s the abuse of the loopholes in legal immigration and work visa laws that have negatively affected the US economy.

          Nativists don’t want any foreign competition to “drive down wages”
          No. Workers in general don’t want competition foreign or domestic. Lawyers or doctors in the US wouldn’t want a lowering of certification standards to allow for more US grads to become lawyers or doctors. Americans teaching English in Japan wouldn’t want more Americans offering their ESL services as this would drive down wages.


    • This is of course a totally idiotic idea. And we are seeing it work out in Europe, where borders have effectively been eliminated. We have hundreds of thousands of ignorant persons who want free beer, plus some genuine refugees, going to Germany or Sweden. They speak neither German, Swedish, nor English. They complain about the quality of the free food. They complain about the dress standards of German girls and women. Those who are educated, such as lawyers, are not educated in German law, but rather Syrian, or in many cases, Afghan, law. It’s a disaster, but every open-borders situation is ALWAYS a disaster.


      • I’m not so ignorant, but being a displaced american programmer, I am totally broke.
        Could you please point me in the right direction for the beer?


  7. The smear merchants at SPLC have targeted Mark Krikorian too? I completey agree with Prof. Matloff – Mark is a thoroughly decent man. If the SPLC has anything negative to say on Mark, that should count as a point IN HIS FAVOUR.


    • The SPLC has totally lost its moral authority by the use of the term “hate group”. So many groups are “hate groups”, including NumbersUSA (a political lobbying group which attempts to persuade people that we have too many immigrants). If you are equating NumbersUSA and the KKK, you have lost your ability to influence the dialog, and should shut up.


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