In This Review

Still an Open Door? U.S. Immigration Policy and the American Economy
Still an Open Door? U.S. Immigration Policy and the American Economy
By Vernon M. Briggs, Jr. and Stephen Moore
The American University Press, 1994, 167 pp.

Immigrants have peopled the United States, but immigration policy has been highly controversial. Motivated by an alleged negative effect of immigration on the wages and employment of low-skilled workers and blacks, Briggs argues that the recent rapid growth of immigration is out of sync with U.S. labor requirements, which increasingly emphasize technical and interpersonal skills. He urges placing a ceiling on immigration, basing actual immigration on near-term requirements for labor skills, and strengthening the prosecution of illegal immigrants.

A second essay, by Moore, is enthusiastic about the impact of immigrants. Drawing heavily on academic research, Moore cites an impressive array of evidence that contradicts the popular views that immigrants burden social welfare, increase unemployment, reduce wages, and accelerate the decay of inner cities. He does not deny that immigrants displace American workers in particular jobs and places but suggests this displacement does not reduce overall employment and reduces wages only negligibly.

Cities with large immigration have generally shown greater economic vigor. In view of the anticipated slowdown in the growth of the U.S. labor force and the pressure on the Social Security system, Moore urges that the current limit on immigration of 675,000 a year (excluding refugees) gradually be enlarged to 1.5 million. Both authors agree that in awarding immigrant visas, emphasis on uniting families should give way to education and specialized skills.