Friday, June 3, 2016

Immigration, Legal and Otherwise

A rambling summary of thoughts on immigration. 

It always seemed to me that one of the most common things you'd ever hear conservative commentators say about immigration is, "I'm not opposed to legal immigration, I just think we need to control who comes in".  Common variants are "... I just think we should know who's coming in", and "how do we know people with horrible diseases aren't coming in?", but the "I'm not opposed to legal immigration" phrase was pretty constant.

I'm not sure I'm still OK with that.  I've been drifting lately.  Let's start with the second clause, which absolutely still fits.  That one's easy.  I'm still completely opposed to people sneaking across the border, whether Mexican, Canadian or OTMDREAMers?  By all accounts, they're a small percentage of the problem.  Fix the big problems and the little ones can be handled as exceptions if needed.  (Basing your entire policy on the little exceptions is like saying we're going to allow unrestricted abortion up to the moment of delivery because of the 0.01% from "teenage girls raped by their uncles"; it's statistical idiocy). 

I was always willing to say legal immigration is fine, but I'm beginning to have second thoughts about that.  For years, Ann Coulter has been pointing out that Teddy Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Act dramatically changed the population entering America.  Before this law, the US let in fewer immigrants in general, and the ethnic makeup of those immigrants was more like the population that came into the US at Ellis Island in the beginning of the 20th century.  My own grandparents, on both sides, came into the US there.  The Ellis Island immigrants were mostly European.  It's simply undeniable that from our nation's founding through the mid 20th century, Americans were primarily from European stock and from a religious and philosophical view America had much in common with Europe.  Since the 1965 act, European immigration has gone down while immigration from the rest of the world, and particularly from Latin America has surged.  It has changed American culture and is one reason for the slide to more dependence on the state we see.
Specific influx predictions that were made seem tragicomic today. Senator Robert Kennedy predicted a total of 5,000 immigrants from India; his successor as Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach, foresaw a meager 8,000. Actual immigration from India has exceeded by 1,000-times Robert Kennedy's prediction.

Senator Hiram Fong, R-Hawaii, calculated that "the people from [Asia] will never reach 1 percent of the population." Even in 1965, people were willing to admit that we have a reasonable interest in not being inundated by culturally alien foreigners, and it was considered acceptable to say so on the floor of the Senate. Try that today, even as a supposed conservative! (Asians currently account for three percent of the population, and will swell to near 10 percent by 2050 if present trends continue.)

The only remaining Congressman who had voted on the 1920s quotas, Representative Emanuel Celler, D-New York, insisted, "There will not be, comparatively speaking, many Asians or Africans entering this country." Today, the number of Asians and Africans entering this country each year exceeds the annual average total number of immigrants [from all countries] during the 1960s. [Square brackets added - SiG]

Yet the largest ethnic shift has occurred within the ranks of Hispanics. Despite Robert Kennedy's promise that, "Immigration from any single country would be limited to 10 percent of the total," Mexico sent 20 percent of last year's immigrants. Hispanics have made up nearly half of all immigrants since 1968. After a 30-year experiment with open borders, whites no longer constitute a majority of Californians or residents of New York City.
Then there's the not so small matter of qualifications to immigrate into the country.  If you want to emigrate to Australia, or Canada, or pretty much anyplace, you need to show that you'd be a valuable addition to that society.  That's fine.  Why shouldn't a country's immigration laws be established to favor people who will add to the country's talent and contribute to improving the country, instead of being a drain on it?  Why would a country willingly take in people it would need to support on public assistance?  Besides recruiting new voters, that is.

Being an engineer, I've been aware of H1B visas since the mid-80s.  They were just a fact of life and didn't really stand out as something to be alarmed about until I started hearing stories like last fall's, that Disney was bringing in H1B visa holders to replace their American citizen workers, and require the Americans to train their replacements.  That was outrageous, but as I started looking around, I was disappointed to hear that kind of behavior isn't uncommonNot at all uncommon.  As you might expect, whenever there are big piles of money, usually being sat upon by the corpulent, the situation turns into an enormous orgy of cronyism
Cognizant, Wipro, Infosys, and Tata all profit by supplying foreign workers to American companies via the H-1B visa program and almost all the workers are Indian. Wipro, Tata, and Infosys are Indian companies and even though Cognizant is in New Jersey, over half their workers are Indian and 64% of all H-1B Visas go to Indians.

Cognizant alone spends millions of dollars lobbying politicians on immigration policy; nearly $3,000,000 in the last two years. A look at Cognizant’s lobbying and contribution numbers show the bipartisan nature of the push for comprehensive immigration reform. They cover the table, supporting both Democrats and Republicans. On one hand, one of their lobbyists is Heather Podesta, the powerful Democrat known as the “It Girl” of Washington. On the other hand, they were big donors to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Why are companies like Cognizant spending so much on lobbying? It’s simple business: they make a lot more on the H-1B Visa program than they spend on lobbying.
On one side, we have national programs to convince US kids to major in STEM programs to produce the "next generation of scientists and engineers" while on the other hand we import these H1B visa holders to fill the very jobs we're trying to get American kids to prepare for.  Don't forget the workers who were in those jobs, were replaced by H1B visa holders, and are now either unemployed or underemployed.  The is creating unemployment and misery for generations to come.  It's easy to understand Gates, Zuckerburg and those CEOs: the more of these H1B visas the allows, the more they can suppress wages and the more candidates they can choose from.  It's, unfortunately, also easy to understand the; they get money from Cognizant, Wipro and the like.  In the case of our administration, already concerned that Americans have too much of the world's wealth, it's even easier to see a motivation to send that wealth overseas. 
So while it's true that the illegal immigrants hold down wages for low end jobs (how could they not?), and conservatives rightfully try to change that, we also have the wages of hardware and software engineers, as well as IT workers and other STEM careers being held down by the H1B visa industry (again, how could they not?).  The law of supply and demand is the only thing you'll find outside of hard science class that rises closest to the character of physical law. 
Indian IT exporters.  HCL was a contractor to Major Avionics Corporation before I retired, so I've worked with a handful of those guys.  They're probably still there.

So where does this leave everything?  I'm still opposed to illegal immigration; no change there.  But I'm also increasingly unhappy with legal immigration.  That process needs to be reformed.  Well, at least the H1B visa program needs some serious reformation to get rid of the cronyism.  There might be aspects of immigration that work properly, but considering who's running it, I doubt that. I have no problem with shutting down both until we fix them. 


  1. The big lie is that there aren't enough American workers OR that they are not trained well enough or as smart, etc. Simply not true. I worked for most of my life in computers and over the years the companies pushed Americans out of the jobs and replaced them with lower payed H1B workers. Lower pay is just one part of the equation, another part id long hours. I worked anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week at some jobs but being on salary I got paid the same as if I worked 40 hours. The pay was good, I was willing but within limits. The new H1B guys, many from India, were simply too afraid of losing the job to refuse and 80 hours for them was common. A lot of good American computer programmers were forced out in favor of foreign workers.
    Boycott Disney.

  2. This. It amazes me that people think immigration should be *easy* and that having strict standards for who may and may not immigrate is "evil". Seriously, it's a frightening level of stupidity and astonishing historical ignorance. It's sensible when Israel or Australia or Canada do it, it's evil and racist when America does it. Because reasons. *banging head on desk*

  3. I consider myself half-Canadian. My mother's ancestors settled in Ontario before it was Ontario ... sometime before 1820 per Canadian census records. The family farm was recently sold after 6 generations. My Grandfather flew for the RFC (and trained at Camp Borden) in WWI - before there was a Canadian Air Force. My ancestor's graves are scattered around the area they settled in - they tended to stay put and stay together ...a different story.

    I'm American because I was born in Detroit. According to Canadian immigration policies, I can not easily immigrate to Canada. For that matter, I understand I could not easily immigrate to Mexico. Why is it racist when I feel perhaps we should adopt immigration laws similar to Canada's or Mexico's? (except that everything is racist in this country)

    Regarding engineer employment, we appear to be of an age and similar training. Perhaps you recall the days when the San Jose Mercury News had an entire section of the paper dedicated to engineer help wanted ads? Consider the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Section 1706 as one contributor to this issue. If there was truly the STEM shortage that many companies and politicians claim, I would expect overload on help-wanted pages along with a significant increase in salaries and a seller's market in skills ... not the 10s to 100s of applicants for every position I hear about from HR people I know.


  4. If there was truly the STEM shortage that many companies and politicians claim, I would expect overload on help-wanted pages along with a significant increase in salaries and a seller's market in skills ... not the 10s to 100s of applicants for every position I hear about from HR people I know. Bingo! Exactly right.

    I hate to be all cynical but the K-12 STEM push seems to be sordid conspiracy to raise the number of applicants and keep wages down.

  5. And the elephant in the room is that the imports are just not as good as the American engineers they replace. They don't have the problem solving skills, the creativity, or the confidence to develop or propose new things. Perhaps with time some of them will, but there is in fact something uniquely "American" that really is different from the rest of the world.


    1. Speaking as an American engineer, I have to call BS on this. H1Bs are fairly uniformly overworked and underpaid, but they have the same range of skill levels that I see in American engineers. The best FPGA guy I ever worked with was an H1B. I don't think he ever worked less than 80 hours, and he read datasheets, technical reference manuals, etc. in his off time. He knew anything you could ask about every type of FPGA we could use off the top of his head and wrote extremely efficient designs. However, some of the worst guys I have worked with were also H1B. You had to hold their hands every step of the way.

      One thing I have noticed about engineers from Asia is that they tend to me much less willing to think outside the box. I imagine it's a cultural influence, an offshoot of the stronger respect for authority inculcated in those cultures. If they are told that a certain way to do things is the right way, they tend to do that without question. The result tends to be excellent work, but with little creativity or originality. American engineers in general seem to be better at innovating, but less skilled at perfecting and making designs more efficient.

  6. "K-12 STEM push"-- they can push the education as much as they want, but without the cultural factors, the independence, the self confidence, the doggedness (none of which are encouraged by current educational culture or methods)they won't get innovators. And innovators are critical for our continued success. Innovators create whole new industries. Innovators change the world. Plodders who are afraid to take chances won't innovate. Kids with no true self confidence, no history of trying and failing and trying again, no independent curiosity, won't innovate.

    The STEM education gives you the tools, but the drive, and the idea that YOU can do it better than the whole rest of the world, comes from other learning experiences. Kids aren't getting those experiences.


  7. Wage and price controls, tariffs, work permits, iron curtains reducing movement of labor, none of this SJW protectionism works as advertised. If it did then North Korea and the former Soviet Union would be rich.

    H1B visas injure the rights of their holders, who do not have full legal rights to negotiate for employment. If Americans choose not to compete with other workers in the world on price or performance then they fully deserve to lose those jobs.

    Government can't overcome Darwinism, it can't bang its legislative gavel and ban the enemy's army from attacking. What happens when the average American becomes uncompetitive on the world market?

    1. " What happens when the average American becomes uncompetitive on the world market?

      That isn't the case. The government with regulations, high taxes and anti-jobs rulings has made it far more profitable for companies to move offshore. As for H1B workers and other foreign workers this is nothing more that cheap labor to replace American labor. Why should we allow it??? The ONLY reason it happens is because business and other special interest buy our politicians. NO non-citizen should be allowed to work in this country and no one here illegally should be allowed to stay. Put America first.

    2. Changing the definitions of words in the middle of an argument is a fallacy, a computational error in thinking, which produces untrue results. The words which are being redefined in your paragraph are group names like "we". The set of people it points to is moving around like the balls under the cups magic trick.

      The government policies which add friction to trade weren't imposed by extraterrestrial aliens, they were imposed by middle class American workers who hired "politicians" to execute those policies. A "politician", a "business", a "special interest", etc. has no power unless 350 million people voluntarily obey their pronouncements, and snitch their neighbors out to their enforcers.

      Thus, each person in the set "American workers" includes BOTH the properties of refusing to work 80 hours/week, AND the willingness to kill people who don't obey THEIR lousy economic policy laws. The American worker is uncompetitive. If you want to become competitive again, stop obeying lousy central planning laws, and stop proposing to tweak those laws. Central planning doesn't work.

    3. Believing that because you can call something a fallacy proves you are right and removes any burden to prove yourself right is... well a fallacy.

      As a side note a "fallacy" can be a mistake in an argument. It is NOT automatically a mistake. Many things that are empirically true can easily be labeled a fallacy. The criteria for a fallacy is over broad. Depend on this cheap substitute for logic and common sense at your own peril.

  8. The interaction of humans with political rules produces sleezy politicians. That is a mechanistic result, we can point to a complete chain of concrete cause and effect steps constructed from human instincts and game theory. Since we understand all the steps, there is no reason to still believe there could be undiscovered theoretical opportunities to subvert that mechanism.

    Small government which stays small is a myth. What government actually does is grow for 200 years until it collapses, often in a genocide.

    Jefferson seemed to believe in the approach of speeding up the 200 year cycle to a 20 year cycle, by triggering it more often with a 'revolution every generation', thereby avoiding the ugly stages of larger government. This at least seems to be working within the laws of physics as we understand them.