Yesterday, my old nemesis Lou Dobbs was back on the anti-immigration warpath. His topic: H1-B visas and the support among presidential candidates for more of them at the expense of hard-working middle-class "Americans." I guess he's either hoping that you don't know what H1-B visas are, that you don't know who's most adversely affected by immigrants coming to the US, or that you don't know who the middle class is.
1. What is an H1-B visa? It is a visa for immigrants with a minimum of a bachelors degree, usually with some degree of specialization in some technical field. Do the visas uniformly get allocated to the most qualified or most in-demand? NO! But, I can only imagine how hot Lou would be at the administrative cost of our Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS) if they tried to evaluate each of the hundreds of thousands of applications to try to evaluate which ones were the best-suited to help our economy grow.
2. Who's most adversely affected by immigration? Not the middle class! The only group that has been shown (in empirical studies of the economy by well qualified econometricians) to be adversely affected by immigration (legal or otherwise) is the lower-tail, i.e. those with low education (high school dropouts) and low experience (18-25 years old). I don't dispute that these, less fortunate groups should be looked after, but I do think that there are better ways to do it than by cutting off the flow of immigrants who help our economy be the leader in innovative technologies.
3. Who is the middle-class anyway? Well, the median household in the US earns about $55,000. Last time I checked, the gardener who does upkeep around my townhouse or the carpenter putting up new units accross the way isn't pulling down anything near that. So, are the immigrants we're most worked up about really killing the middle class? I don't think so-- I really don't think that they're competing in the same labor markets as the "middle" class.