"Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me."
The publication of a Julian Simon book is a cause for rejoicing among advocates of laissez-faire and open-border immigration. According to Dr. Simon, who teaches business administration at the University of Maryland and is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, all immigrants and refugees, no matter how many or in what form, are good news for the American economy. His latest opus will not disappoint his followers, but it adds little of any substance to the real-world immigration policy debate.
The much smaller volume by University of California economist George Borjas is a valuable contribution to the debate on immigration—it is a penetrating, scholarly work incorporating state-of-the-art economic research and is very accessible to the noneconomist. In contrast to Simon's replay of the same old message, that the United States "needs" many more immigrants, Borjas finds that recent immigrants are much more likely to live below the poverty line, to be unskilled and unemployed, and to go on welfare. Borjas concludes that the United States must dramatically upgrade the quality of immigrants if we are to avoid the very large costs of the past fifteen to twenty years.
I begin with Simon's notions because they are both oversimplified...