Everyone professes to agree that our system should be tilted toward high-skilled immigration, but the Gang of Eight bill unleashes a flood of additional low-skilled immigration. The last thing low-skilled native and immigrant workers already here should have to deal with is wage-depressing competition from newly arriving workers. Nor is the new immigration under the bill a panacea for the long-term fiscal ills of entitlements, as often argued, because those programs are redistributive and most of the immigrants will be low-income workers.
I have high regard for Mr. Kristol and Mr. Lowry, but I respectfully disagree with them about this. For one thing, this claim that "Everyone professes to agree that our system should be tilted toward high-skilled immigration" is inaccurate. I don't agree with that. I think this dichotomy between low-skilled immigrants and high-skilled immigrants is a false dichotomy. Immigrants may arrive here with low skills, attend our colleges and universities or receive on the job training, and wind up with high skills. Or the low-skill immigrants may have children or grandchildren who acquire high skills. Mr. Kristol and Mr. Lowry, who are both pro-life in the abortion rights debate, might come around on this if they try to think about newly arriving immigrants like newborn children. They don't show up with any skills, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't let them into this world.
The concern voiced by Mr. Kristol and Mr. Lowry for low-skilled native and already-here-immigrant workers is touching, but those workers are already competing in a global economy with overseas workers. Improving the lot of these workers already here and their families may take time, improved education and training, perhaps unions, and a variety of settlement-house/Marvin Olasky/Harlem Children's Zone style programs, none of which are being pursued in certain conservative quarters with anything like the ardency of the immigration restriction movement. The low-skilled workers can't get or keep jobs now that pay minimum wage plus an earned income tax credit because they can't show up on time or provide the value to an employer of the minimum wage; they aren't competing with hardworking immigrants but with the minimum wage standard, with low-wage workers overseas, and with robots, machines, and computers.
Finally, the idea that immigrants are not an entitlement fix ignores the productivity of the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Maybe "most" of the immigrants will be low-income workers, but some of them, or their children, will become multimillionaires and billionaires like Sergei Brin and Andrew Grove and George Soros. The solution here isn't to bar the doors to immigrants, but to reform the entitlement programs to put them on firmer ground. Again, the analogy to newborn children is fitting; no one is arguing for a one-child policy in America because we won't be able to afford the Social Security or Medicare bills for large families when they get older.