Who wants more skilled immigrants?

From a survey by the Economics Innovation Group:

The survey display found strong bipartisan backing for expanding pathways for skilled immigration. Specifically, 71 percent of voters are supportive of more skilled immigrants coming to the United States (defined as those with a high level of educational achievement or specialized professional skills), including 60 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats, and 72 percent of Independents.

When asked if voters would support increasing the number of skilled immigrants so that they can “start companies in the United States that will promote economic growth and create new jobs for American workers” support increased across the board, including by 20 percentage points among Republicans (to 75 percent overall, 84 percent among Democrats, 66 percent among Republicans, and 73 percent among Independents).

The Biden administration has signaled its desire to increase employment-based immigration. (Go here and here.)

How geographically concentrated is the Hispanic population? A lot.

In 2020, 18%, or about 58 million persons, of the U.S. population was of “Hispanic origin” per the Census. Two thirds of these people live in five states: CA, AZ, NM, TX, and FL.  The combined population of the four southwest states with borders with Mexico is 39% of Hispanic origin. FL is 26% of Hispanic origin.  Among all the other 45 states, the Hispanic population is 10%.

Many thousands of amnesty seeking persons from U.S. sanctioned countries are crossing at the Mexican border

A significant share of persons crossing the Mexican border in search of amnesty come from countries which has incurred the official wrath of the United States.

In October 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had about 240,000 encounters at the Mexican border (many may be the same persons from prior months trying again). About 180,000 were from seven countries.  The country with the most persons was Mexico (66,000). Three countries with which the U.S. has an officially hostile relations – Cuba (29,000), Venezuela (22,000) and Nicaragua (21,000) — totaled about 72,000.  Given as the U.S. considers their governments as oppressive and (for Venezuela) illegitimate, it is reasonable to expect that many of these 72,000 will qualify for amnesty.  (Go here.)


The Wall Street Journal reports that In the 12 months through October, around 244,000 Cubans were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol after fleeing economic misery and political repression at home. Most of them came via this expensive airlift through Nicaragua, and were released into the U.S., according to U.S. officials.

It is the largest number of Cubans to arrive in the U.S. in a single wave since the late Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, twice the 125,000 who came in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and almost six times as many as in the comparable 2021 period.

U.S. policy regarding Cuban refugees: the U.S. embassy in Havana has issued a statement that the following are acceptable reasons for amnesty: Members of persecuted religious minorities; Human rights activists; Former political prisoners; Forced-labor conscripts (1965-1968); and Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs or activities.


On September 2022 White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Nicaraguans are “fleeing political persecution and communism.” (Go here.)


In October 2022 the Biden administration said it would accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans via a humanitarian parole plan. (Go here.) This number is about equal to the number of Venezuelans to appear at the Mexican border each months. The administration in 2021 had provided for Temporary Protection Status though March 2024 to 320,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. without authorization. Yet as a sign of conflicted policy, the U.S. is expelling Venezuelans at the border (go here).



Economic disparities among Hispanics in the U.S.

The Census reports on economic hardship and household wealth among Hispanics by country of origin. 35% of  Hispanic and 24% of non-Hispanic people in the United States lived in a household that experienced material hardship in 2020. About half of Dominicans and Salvadorans experienced material hardship.  But only 23% of Columbians experienced hardship. (Columbian household economic conditions are better than those of Cubans in the U.S.)

Average household wealth of Hispanics ($52K) is much less than that of non-Hispanics ($195K). the table below shows the average wealth of five nationalities of Hispanics.


Migrant workers in Qatar

The immigration website Boundless examines the involvement of migrant workers in the World Cup in Qatar. These workers are subject to the rules of the “kafala” system of employment (go here and here). Figures of workers and accidents are very soft. The Guardian estimates that there have been over 6,000 work deaths since 2010. (This is for all work, not just World Cup construction.)


The migrant workforce in Qatar is estimated at 2 million, making up nearly 95% of the labor force in a country of just 3 million people. [Leading source countries are India 700K, Bangladesh 260K, Nepal 250K, Pakistan 240K per one data source]

Qatar’s population also increased by nearly 40% after its World Cup hosting was announced, as demand in the construction industry boomed and many migrants, mostly of South Asian descent, flocked to the country to fill open positions. Qatar has since faced accusations of widespread mistreatment of the country’s migrant workforces and downplaying work-related deaths. Tournament organizers originally placed the official death toll at 40, but this week World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi cited a greater figure of migrant workers who’ve died as a result of tournament preparations: around 400 to 500.

Under the kafala, or sponsorship, system, the employment and immigration status of migrant workers are controlled entirely by private citizens and companies, rather than the government. Workers’ employment and visas are intrinsically linked and employers often have the power to terminate migrant workers’ legal statuses at will, putting them at risk of imprisonment or deportation. Historically, migrant workers have needed their employer’s permission to transfer jobs, leave their current positions, and enter or exit their host country. Previously under the kafala system, in most countries, workers had to apply for a specific exit permit to leave the country and a “non-objection” certificate to switch jobs. At its worst, the kafala system is akin to modern-day indentured servitude.

International attention on Qatar due to the World Cup did trigger policy changes in the last several years, but many say the new labor laws don’t do enough to protect workers and their families. In Qatar, migrant workers can now change jobs freely without permission from their employer, a standard minimum wage now exists, and penalties for employers who withhold wages have increased.

The Eritrean diaspora

Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, and which has been run by the former independence movement leader and now dictator pretty much since, Isaias Afwerki, has one of the most intensely alienated diasporas in the world. 800,000 Eritreans, or 13% live outside the country, some 300,000 of whom live in liberal democracies.  The diaspora population is riven by political schisms. Akwerki rules without a constitution or public budget. It may be the most difficult African country for the diaspora to exert any influence.

Should we increase the H-1B program?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “Should the U.S. Expand the H-1B Visa Program? Three experts offer a vigorous debate on whether the program helps or hurts the U.S., and whether it exploits foreign workers.”

WSJ: Overall, is the H-1B program good, bad or neutral for the U.S. economy?

Ron Hira, associate professor of political science at Howard University and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute: It does more harm than good. The shame of it is that it could be reformed to do a lot more good than harm. The Biden administration has the power and legal authority to reform it. Raise the H-1B minimum wages, close the outsourcing loophole, enforce the rules, audit major users of the H-1B program to ensure compliance, join in whistleblower lawsuits.

David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute: The H-1B visa benefits the U.S. economy in numerous ways, creating innovation and new products that benefit U.S. consumers, reducing costs and inflation, and expanding the tax base. The H-1B visa is also the only way for most skilled workers to obtain permanent residence in the United States. As a result of these pathways, foreign workers have risen to become CEOs of dozens of major companies, including Microsoft and Google. Skilled immigrants (mostly starting their careers on H-1B visas) have also gone on to found more than half of the $1 billion startups in the U.S., creating thousands of jobs for U.S. workers.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center: I think it’s better than nothing but a far cry from what would really help the U.S. economy.


There are about 600,000 persons in the U.S. today holding a H-1B visa, although only 85,000 new visas are issued annually. This is how the H-1B visa system works.

On the one hand, there is Ron Hira’s relentless criticism of H-1B as exploitation of foreign workers who displace American workers. Go here for the stream of his papers. In 2016 there was a huge outroar in which Hira participated about how Southern California Edison hired many H-1B workers through an Indian IT firm.

On the other hand, Omid Bagheri of Kent State University produced a study concluding that H-1B visa holders are paid well, are not exploited, and implicitly do not drive down wages of American workers.



Here is a subdued, nuanced study of the role of H-1B workers in the financial auditing industry



Semi conductor workforce shortage

The CHIPS and Science Act was passed by bipartisan support (64-33 in the Senate) and signed into law by President Biden on August 9, 2022. As part of its goal to increase semi-conductor production in the United States, it aims to resolve the shortage of workers to staff new production facilities, each costing some $20 billion. It is hard to find this staffing without relying heavily on foreign-born workers.

Chips are critical to manufacturing. Per Deloitte, the absence of a single critical chip, often costing less than a dollar, can prevent the sale of a device worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Here is one analysis of the labor shortage: Sure enough, technology can automate most processes in a fab. But the reality is, the semiconductor industry still needs professional skilled workers to manage some roles. According to a whitepaper by Eightfold.ai, the US alone will need around 70,000 to 90,000 workers to be added by 2025 to meet the most critical workforce needs for the new fab facilities….the US for example needs to increase its current workforce by a minimum of 50% — and likely significantly more.

The American Immigration Council says that Immigrants made up almost one-fourth, or 23.1 percent, of all STEM workers in the United States in 2019, a significant increase from just 16.4 percent in 2000. While the overall number of STEM workers in the United States increased by 44.5 percent between 2000 and 2019, the number of immigrant STEM workers more than doubled over the same period. By 2019, there were almost 2.5 million immigrant STEM workers, compared to just 1.2 million in 2000.


Three quarters of electrical engineering students in the U.S. are foreign born.


Also go here.


Status of immigration bills as of December 8 2022

Now that we are closing in on Democratic control of the House, I want to review the pressing  legislative initiatives for immigration.  There is no assurance that any of these initiatives will meet the 60 vote threshold in the Senate.

The Eagle Act (HR 3648), originally introduced in 2021, will remove the country caps for H-1B visa. The main beneficiary of the act will be Indians. (Text here.)

Farm Labor, through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 (HR 1603), passed by the House at that time. (Go here for the text). The farm industry has long tried to legalize its unauthorized workers. (Go here for my posting in May 2022). (Go here for the text,) Here is an argument for the act.

The Dream Act of 2021,( S. 264), which is the latest iteration of legislative efforts since Obama’s executive order of June 2012 which created legal protection for children brought illegally into the country but has antecedents going back to 2001. (Here is a recent argument for passage now.)

A Senators Tillis and Sinema bill, being rushed into introdution as of now, would lealize Dreamers, authorize Title 42, and add border security. The Wall Street Journal has endorsed it

The Eagle Act

The Eagle Act would do more: address a backlog in conversation of H1-B visas to Green cards, but will do that not by increasing the total number of Green Cards but claiming a share of them; and removing the aging out risk for children here due to dependency on parent visas, who reach 21 years of age. (Here and here.)

The text of the Eagle Act has as of today the original 2011 language unchanged: HR 3648, Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2022.

The White House endorsed the Eagle Act on December 6.


I cite two.  On is an opinion article on The Hill on November 11 chastises the Democrats for failing to fashion a bill which would be more palatable to Republicans. The author harks back to the most recent comprehensive reform bill, in 1986, which failed in stemming illegal migration, though the initiatives do not address general amnesty.

Second, the American Hospital Association criticizes the bill because it is almost exclusively focused on temporary tech workers and does nothing about the nursing shortage. The AHA writes: “Most foreign-trained nurses are not qualified to come into the U.S. on an H-1B visa. They instead must apply for legal permanent resident status, or a green card, to be granted employment-based immigration for themselves and their family members. We continue to support the green card process as the most effective way to offer permanent employment for nurses.”