Does America’s economy need more high-skilled or low-skilled immigrants? How should we handle those currently here illegally? Where should Republicans and conservatives come down on these questions and the idea of comprehensive immigration reform? These were among the questions discussed at a lively AEI debate moderated by Timothy P. Carney on Wednesday evening.
Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation argued that, as a free country built by immigrants, America deserves an immigration system that is consistent with the country’s core principles. According to Dalmia, market forces are better at regulating our borders than central planners in the US government. Thus, we should open or loosen control over our borders and work toward an immigration system that responds to the needs and aspirations of America’s employers and families rather than to a distant federal bureaucracy.
Reihan Salam of National Review disagreed, arguing that the costs associated with large-scale migration — particularly of low-skilled workers — are not viable for the American economy. Salam posited that looser border control would lead to a permanent underclass, since low-skilled workers lack the skills to forge valuable social networks and are unlikely to marry outside their class. Salam ultimately argued that the United States should reduce less-skilled immigration while doing more to help immigrants and their children enter the middle class.
Ultimately, both debaters agreed that immigrants currently living in the US should be granted a path to citizenship.
More than 11 million immigrants are living without authorization in the United States. US high-tech companies say they could expand and innovate more if America increased high-skilled immigration, and low-wage employers are desperate for more low-skilled labor from overseas.
These are the problems comprehensive immigration reform aims to solve. But the proposed solutions have their own problems. Would a reform bill hurt working-class Americans? Should new immigrants have access to government benefits? Does President Obama have authority to act unilaterally on any of these issues?
We welcome you to join us at AEI for a lively debate on immigration reform, featuring Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation and Reihan Salam of National Review.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
If you have trouble registering, please contact [email protected]
Shikha Dalmia, Reason Foundation
Reihan Salam, National Review
Timothy P. Carney, AEI
Adjournment and wine and cheese reception
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