A Programmer Reader Chastises Peter Brimelow For Skilled Immigration Squishiness; Brimelow Blithers
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June 26, 2005

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"No Job Is Safe"—A Patent Attorney Reader Reports More Displacement

From: [Name Withheld]:

I recently watched your UVA talk. (Watch in RealVideo) One thing that I was amazed at: how lax you were towards skilled labor immigration, saying something like "maybe if we let them [the business lobbies] have their 50,000 computer programmers, they'll let us contain the rest of it."

First off, we programmers have as a group been more negatively affected by immigration than any other group. The recent trend towards rampant insecurity in information systems-and phenomena like Enron- suggests also that form of immigration is having effects just as undesirable for the population as a whole per immigrant as any form of immigration.

Peter: put yourself in my shoes for a moment:

H-1b/L-1 expansion meant to me:

1)   Two years of unemployment

2)   Eventually acceptance of a job with a more than 60% cut in pay.

Also, the Marxist analysis fails here. It isn't just economic elites that have been party to this—political/media elites have enthusiastically participated. (Old Marxist parties used to advocate immigration limitation, and the Socialist International has even been critical of guest workers).

I don't think stopping immigration is quite as easy as you suggest. Stopping emigration from Mexico will require disenfranchisement of the elite that has created the problems in both countries and almost certainly a revolution there—I personally support that. The question: how can the American people contain their own political, media and economic elites?

The current political discourse, in which everyone from liberals like Ted Kennedy to conservatives like Trent Lott is utterly insensitive to the situation of U.S. technologists, is creating an intensely volatile situation.

Peter Brimelow blithers: Norm Matloff and others have pointed out forcefully that, because the numbers of skilled immigrants are relatively small, I tend to discount the devastating displacement that they can cause, as opposed to the grander disaster of mass unskilled immigration.

My comment, however, was made in the context of Guest Worker programs. As a practical matter, I do think that a temporary Guest Worker program (with appropriate citizen-child reform) would be useful in neutralizing the business lobbies. I admit that nobody in the immigration reform movement agrees with me!

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