Reportedly the incoming Trump administration is considering a points system to replace current policy on (legal) immigration. Canada and Australia, among others, have policies along these lines.
The basic idea is to bias policy in favor of immigrants who will be most beneficial to the U.S. Seems plausible. What’s not to like? As the son of a skill-less immigrant who barely finished high school, I do continue to hold the romantic notion of the U.S. being a mecca for “your tired, your poor” and so on, and I have always advocated having a policy that consists of a mixture of socioeconomic classes. But this might be impractical today, and in any case, my interest in writing this post concerns how Silicon Valley, and another interest group to be explained later in this post, might view a points system.
The Trump people seem to think that the tech industry would love the plan, which presumably would bring in lots of engineers and scientists. But I’m pretty sure the industry would oppose the idea outright. I say that because they have done so before, when the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill was brought before Congress in 2007.
Again, what’s not to like, in this case from the point of view of the tech industry? They want highly-skilled immigrants, right? The problem is that Google and Facebook don’t want skilled software engineers; they want YOUNG software engineers. They don’t want the 35-year-old software developer from Georgia, whether he be from Atlanta or Tbilisi. Most of the foreign workers hired by Google and Facebook are young new graduates.
But…if only points could be awarded for being a young new graduate, the industry might be interested. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what Canada is doing.
In other words, Staple a Green Card, the type of program I have argued vigorously against. It would exacerbate the age problem, reduce wages and job opportunities, increase displacement of Americans by foreign workers (albeit ones who become Americans), and above all, bring down the level of insight and innovation of our technical workforce.
There is another interesting pressure group here. Currently a major part of immigration policy is family-based immigration, part of which is known as Fourth Preference. This is the portion of the statute that allows U.S. citizens (typically naturalized ones) to petition for their adult siblings for a green card. This and other aspects form the core driver of what is called chain migration: John immigrates to the U.S., later naturalizes and then petitions for his sister Mary to immigrate. She brings her husband James, who later petitions for his brother Jared and so on.
There has been heavy criticism of chain migration over the years, and people of various immigration-ideological stripes have proposed eliminating the Fourth Preference. But such efforts have been repeatedly thwarted by heavy lobbying by Chinese-American activist groups, who know that the growth in their numbers has come largely from the Fourth Preference. Would they oppose if a point system were proposed today? Possibly not. I’ve heard that at least one of the Chinese groups thinks that the best way to increase the numbers of Chinese immigrants is through H-1B and the like. A solid majority of H-1Bs is Indian, but the second-largest nationality is Chinese
As the vendors at baseball games used to say, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!” Identifying the players — and their “positions” — in the immigration game is getting more and more difficult.