Saturday, April 22, 2006

Immigration Hearing - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On Tuesday, April 25, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be conducting a public hearing relating to the economic impact of the current immigration enforcement, and the economic impact of proposed revisions to statute.

Update: Links added after each speaker's "preview," to the testimony they provided in the hearing. My quick impression is that all four speakers are proponents of globalism, and are resigned to a reduction in the standard of living in the United States as "the world income levels" equalize. See also, Senator Leahy's Statement which hard sells the McCain/Kennedy or similar "compromise" legislation.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on "Immigration" on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 9:30 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226. Note: This hearing may continue into the afternoon.

Tentative Witness List
Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
"Immigration: Economic Impacts"
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226
9:30 a.m.


Richard B. Freeman
Professor of Economics
Harvard University
Program Director of Labor Studies
National Bureau of Economic Research
Cambridge MA

Dan Siciliano
Executive Director
Program in Law
Economics and Business
Stanford Law School
Stanford, CA

Barry R. Chiswick
Professor of Economics
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL

Harry J. Holzer
Professor of Public Policy
Georgetown University
Washington, DC

I have no idea of the backgrounds, biases, expertise or other potentially interesting and relevant facts with regard to Mssrs. Freeman, Siciliano, Chiswick or Holzer, but will likely look into each of them a bit before Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Research into the Panel

National Bureau of Economic Research

I bumped into NBER right off the bat, as it hosts Mr. Freeman's home page. The organization touts itself as unbiased, and it may be, in the same sense that the Federalist Society is - which is to present multiple sides of argument and let the readers decide. Milton Friedman contributed to early work of NBER, and in their own words, "The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community."

In December, 2005, NBER published a paper, The Evolution of the Mexican Workforce in the United States, the abstract of which includes this statement:

The authors also find that the large Mexican influx in recent decades has contributed to the widening of the U.S. wage structure by adversely affecting the earnings of less-educated native workers and improving the earnings of college graduates. These wage effects have, in turn, lowered the prices of non-traded goods and services that are low-skill labor intensive.

The authors of the paper are NBER Research Associates George Borjas and Lawrence Katz, not Mr. Freeman.

Richard B. Freeman

Update - Testimony of Richard B. Freeman

Richard B. Freeman's Home Page

NBER provides a List of working papers by Mr. Freeman. The notion that wealth transfer (that is, government sponsored welfare) results in higher unemployment is expressed in the abstract of Why Don't More Puerto Rican Men Work? The Rich Uncle (Sam) Hypothesis. Injecting my opinion here, I'd say that bodes well for having Mr. Freeman on the panel, inasmuch as he might link US social welfare policies (e.g., free public education, indigent/emergency health care) with the influx of workers.

Not that I believe social welfare is the only linked issue, but it's my sense that the "safety net" and general lack of protecting "the Euro-American way of life" (see provision of bilingual services) represent a significant part of the incentive to flout the legal immigration process. Sorry about the digression ;-)

And this from the abstract of one of Mr. Freeman's papers dated 1996:

Evidence suggests that the depressed labor market for low skill American workers contributed to the continued high level of crime by less educated men, despite incapacitation and the deterrent effect of imprisonment. The costs of incarceration are such that even marginally effective prevention policies can be socially desirable.

Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It?

Another interesting question there. Earlier this month, the notion that sound immigration policy needs to adapt to economic conditions was raised in the Senate. That being that what may represent good policy is strong business economies - permitting MORE immigration in order to fill a demand for workers - has a downside during weak business economies. The immigrant workers are seen as taking jobs from citizen workers, who in a time of bad economy become willing to work for less.

Mr. Freeman has also published articles in "The Nation," which tend to advocate what is arguably more effective means of collective bargaining, the object being to increase the ranks of unions. See also what is perhaps an objective analysis in a powerpoint presentation (in PDF format) at Doubling the Global Work Force: The Challenge of Integrating China, India ..., at slide No. 14. One of the Four Mechanisms of globalization? "Immigration - US has bifurcated flows" And also on the last slide, No. 28, the presentation indicates "Safety net/social wage" as a desirable policy for the United States.

A few links to ease your further research:

Dan Siciliano

Update - Testimony of Dan Siciliano

I have an easy chore here, seeing as how Mr. Siciliano testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on November 16, 2005. The conclusions he reached in that testimony were

  • U.S. economy has become increasingly reliant on immigrant workers to fill the growing number of less-skilled jobs [Doing the jobs that Americans won't do]
  • Some claim that immigration reduces employment levels and wages among native-born workers. This is generally not true.
  • immigration beyond current legal limits has already become an integral component of U.S. economic growth and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future
  • The complementary nature of immigrant labor makes it unlikely that immigrants are replacing a significant number of native-born workers, but are instead moving into positions that allow native-born workers to be more productive.
I note in passing that Mr. Siciliano fails to quantify his position. All agree that immigration is good for society, when the immigration is at an appropriate rate. The issue isn't "immigration or NOT", it is how much immigration, and what is the preferred mix of immigrants when taking into account skill, political asylum, adherence to what is thought of as "Western Civilization," and commitment to assimilate.

That being said, I do agree that a simplistic model that fails to account for some measure of complementary effect is wrong. Baseball teams, to use an overused example, become stronger when certain gaps in their team performance are filled. Likewise companies. If there are no troubleshooters of the necessary type, or not enough "hands on the rope" (to use a tug-of-war analogy), then adding the missing component via immigration will advance the team effort, by more than the measure of the immigrant's effort.

Mr. Siciliano is the CEO of LawLogix, a firm that provides software for immigration case management. This relates primarily to the case management for legal immigration, and is sold to lawyers and immigrations offices. "All-in-One System - Integrated forms, billing, e-filing and case management with multi-language client online interfaces that are easy to learn and use for both you and your clients."

A few additional links to start your further research:

My sense (here is my personal impression and opinion again) of the AILF, based on skimming a few of the papers there, is that they are critical of Congress for not establishing and funding a system that facilitates orderly immigration. I have to agree with that, FedGov is bureaucracy at it worst. But they openly advocate the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act," S.1033/ H.R.2330 of McCain-Kennedy (and Kolbe, in the House) over the "Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act," S.1438 by Cornyn and Kyl, asserting that Cornyn-Kyl "would make a bad situation worse." Whether you agree with their position or not, AILF Issue Papers presents a darn good summary of details that play into developing immigrations and border control policy.

Barry R. Chiswick

Update - Testimony of Barry R. Chiswick

Dr. Chiswick's work doesn't lend itself to simple analysis, he's an egghead, and I mean that in an endearing way. His analyses include the following sorts of conclusions:

  • Immigrants are shown to receive approximately the same rate of return to the "required" (occupational norm) level of education, but experience a smaller negative effect of years of undereducation, and to a lesser extent a small positive effect of overeducation. (Why Is the Payoff to Schooling Smaller for Immigrants?)
  • A consistent finding is that recently arrived Soviet Jewish immigrants have lower levels of English proficiency and earnings than other immigrants, other variables being the same. However, they have a steeper improvement in both proficiency and earnings with duration in the United States and the differences from the other European immigrants disappear after a few years. (The Linguistic and Economic Adjustment of Soviet Jewish Immigrants)
  • Pre-school enrollment is found to vary systematically with parental characteristics (income and education), immigrant generation, number of siblings, mother's labor supply and country of origin. (Pre-School Enrollment: An Analysis by Immigrant Generation)
    [Read the study]
  • Immigrants are highly geographically concentrated. Compared to the native born they are more likely to live in the central parts of Metropolitan Areas in "gateway (major international airport) cities" in six states (California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois). (Where Immigrants Settle in the United States)
  • Teenage immigration is associated with fewer years of schooling compared to those who immigrated at pre-teen or post-teen ages. ... Hispanics and Blacks lag behind the non-Hispanic whites in their educational attainment, with the gap narrowing for higher order immigrant generations among Hispanics, but rising among blacks. (Educational Attainment: Analysis by Immigrant Generation)
    [Read the study]
Well, finally, I found an article by Dr. Chiswick that is written in plain English, and seems to cut to policy questions rather than rigorous analysis of minutia (interesting minutia, no doubt, and I am a firm subscriber to "the devil is in the details," but the object of this blog entry is to get a handle on the fundamental policy view of the people who will be addressing questions put by United States Senators!).

The article linked below describes various methods that might be used to ration visas, and seems to put at risk the policy of giving preference to family members. He says, "On the other hand, US Policy regarding non-refugee immigrants is Troubling. These visas are issued largely on the basis of kinship with a US citizen or resident alien, with very little weight given to an applicant's likely contribution to the US economy."

After an accessible expounding of alternatives, Dr. Chiswick concludes:

Many people who immigrate to the United States each year on the basis of kinship criteria would not qualify on the basis of productivity criteria. The immigration of these less productive workers is at the expense of the US population. The largest adverse impact may be borne by low-skilled or socially disadvantaged Americans, who face greater competition in the labor market and in the allocation of income transfers. An immigration policy based on productivity would reverse this pattern. By increasing the overall skill level and hence the productivity of immigrants, the overall economic impact of immigration would become more favorable. Greater public support for increasing the annual level of immigration would likely follow.

Legal Aliens: Toward a Positive Immigration Policy

Yet another group of additional links for further research:

Harry J. Holzer

Update - Testimony of Harry J. Holzer

Ahh, another witness who has testified on the subject of immigration in the past. Mr. Holzer testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on May 4, 2005. His premise is that US employment rate (or unemployment rate) is driven more by underlying economic strength than by the number of immigrants; and that more immigration will be viewed as a positive as current citizens, especially "baby boomers," retire and leave a shortage of workers. He asserts that job growth was stagnant from March 2001 and 2004, and that the job market at the time (May 2005) "remains quite weak."

He further asserts that immigration affects a small number of labor market sectors, especially in specific geographic regions. "None of this implies that immigrants are directly displacing U.S. workers in large numbers." He says too that "foreign-born students and workers will be a major source of new scientists and engineers in the U.S. over the next few decades."

I find Mr. Holzer's testimony here to be disjointed and misleading. There is little in the way of cause and effect supposition, and his conclusions are more in the nature of truisms than reasoned argument. For example, "Over the longer term, Americans need to improve their skills to maintain and increase their earnings growth." Well sure, if one wants to earn more (earnings growth), ones needs to bring greater skills (which are more scarce) or greater productivity to the table.

Mr. Holzer also testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on November 16, 2005. His general contention there is "that it would be economically unwise to drastically curtail immigration to the United States." Well, one person's "drastic reduction" is another's "reasonable." I much prefer some sort of quantification. One other observation - Mr. Holzer usually mentions immigrants as being likely to engage in elder care. I think this is an interesting wedge, and that could be a subject for an entire piece.

Mr. Holzer was critical of Alan Greenspan's advice to reduce government spending and make the Bush tax cuts permanent. His definition of "fiscal sanity" is to first define targeted functions that the government can and should provide, as a matter of creating and maintaining a business infrastructure (looks to me like government directed prioritizing of R&D), and devotion to social safety nets, and then to tax in order to meet those functions.

He is also an active contributor to Center for American Progress, which produced these talking points relating to immigration reform:

  • Conservatives deserve the blame for the failure of the passage of the immigration bill
  • Immigration isn't just a "Mexican" issue
  • There is still hope for a comprehensive immigration bill
  • The McCain-Kennedy bill still remains the model for what should be passed

A final set of additional links

More readings relating to Immigration


Blogger Mitch said...

Immigration is a sticky wicket. Thanks for giving so much info -- it helps to make sense of it all. Most news doesn't break it down. Another reason I love reading blogs! You might be interested in my blog, especially if you like music or technology. Just click on my name or the icon.

4/22/2006 8:58 AM  

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