Mark Krikorian has criticized my recommendation that improving the legal immigration system for skilled workers would be more beneficial to the American economy than squabbling over illegal-immigration issues. He stresses that the “best and brightest are already able to stay here, and do,” when in fact America is facing a reverse brain-drain crisis. As immigration expert and Harvard Law School researcher Vivek Wadhwa explains in his recent congressional testimony and in the Washington Post:
• First, the world’s best and brightest are not begging to be let into the United States anymore.
• Finally, the U.S. is providing an unintentional gift to China and India by causing frustrated skilled immigrants to return home thanks to a burdensome visa application process.
Krikorian cites this year’s Nobel Prize winners to make the point that native-born Americans dominate the sciences. However, this small sample ignores the broader historical trend — one quarter of American Nobel Prize winners since 1901 (the first year the prizes were awarded) have been immigrants. As recently as 2009, five of the eight American winners were immigrants.
There is undoubtedly a need for better solutions to control illegal immigration, but in the meantime, changes in the laws for legal immigrants that would shift the focus away from granting visas based on family ties and toward a system based on employer demand is a pro-growth step that we should embrace. Immigrants’ productivity raises the U.S. GDP by an estimated $37 billion per year, and with the baby-boomer generation retiring by the thousands every day, highly skilled workers who contribute to innovation are the right choice for America.
— Rohan Poojara is a research assistant in the economic policy studies group at AEI.