The Immigration Story and the American Future

Michael Barone’s Examiner column linked in our “Picks” section today about immigration brings to mind some old controversies.  Michael concludes:

My prediction is that we won’t ever again see the heavy Latin immigration we saw between 1983 and 2007, which averaged 300,000 legal immigrants and perhaps as many illegals annually.

Mexican and other Latin birth rates fell more than two decades ago. And Mexico, the source of 60 percent of Latin immigrants, is now a majority-middle-class country.

This represents a prediction come true.  Back in the early 1990s when I still lived out in California and the issue of illegal immigration was reaching fever pitch (remember California’s Proposition 187 in 1994, which sough to cut state benefits to illegal aliens—it passed by a large majority, but was struck down in court), I distinctly recall reading an academic paper—I thought it was by Nobel laureate Gary Becker, but I can’t seem to find it—that predicted that in another 20 years or so (which would be about . . . now) immigration from Mexico would begin to decline sharply for the very reasons Michael identifies: demographics and economic growth in Mexico.  And as the Pew Research Center estimated a few months ago, the U.S.-Mexico immigration flow may actually be negative right now.

Problem solved or reduced, right?  Not so fast.  We may need some of those workers, even in low-wage jobs, if we’re to have any chance of keeping our payroll-tax based entitlements halfway solvent.  In addition, we still need skilled immigrants for many jobs.  I was able to find Becker’s answer to this: let’s auction off visas.

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