Side note- There's a good amount of literature that the relationship between a country's income and emigration is inverse U-shape. Emigration takes thousands of dollars, so when a country is real power their people can't really afford to immigrate to another country. However, as the country's income approves their people have the money to immigrate to a higher income country where they believe their kids can have a better life. However, once the country's income reaches more of the middle income level, emigration slows down as emigrating becomes less attractive b/c of the lower income differential. For example, immigration from Mexico is much lower nowadays b/c Mexico has become middle income country.

So the United States shouldn't bet on immigration from Northern Triangle countries slowing down even if we somehow help their economies. It's going to take more than a one or two presidential administrations to get Northern Triangle's GDPs to converge to Mexico's. Meanwhile if their economies improve, there's a good chance that it might actually increase emigration b/c more people will be able to afford to pay the coyotes.

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Who else here actually works with a lot of highly skilled/educated foreigners? I do, and watching them--STEM PhDs from fancy schools, etc.--struggle with visa issues has totally radicalized me. They're amazing, and dithering about keeping them when they would otherwise be in China or wherever but they want to be here is the most unbelievably self-destructive thing I have ever observed. I do not need the US government protecting my job from my brilliant colleagues. My brilliant colleagues are the reason my job is fun and prestigious in the first place. Chasing them out so people like me have less competition is the definition of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

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This crisis was 100% predictable. I'm amazed they walked into something so obvious.

As someone who supported Biden from day 1 in the primaries, I'm just annoyed with the incompetence on display.

The only rational policy is one that removes incentives from making the journey in the first place.

Telling people "showing up at the border gives you your best shot at getting in" leads to disaster.

Trump's final policies (that is, after child separation was stopped) should have been the starting point, at least to start.

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Surprised Matt did not contend with the main issue that frustrates the asylum process- it is broken and largely used as a loophole to get around the legal immigration. Don’t have the exact stats handy, but something like 80% of asylum claims ultimately rejected. However, we have a shortage of judges and limits on how long we can detain asylum seekers awaiting trial. So the old policy was to release them into the US until the trial- except this was abused and many simply skipped the trial and stayed in the US illegally. This was even easier if you had a child in tow because a judge ruled you can only hold children for a short time, and absent Trump’s harsh child separation policy, the adults would be released with the children after a very short holding period.

This became a simple strategy for migrants wanting to enter the country illegally- show up at the border, preferably with children, claim asylum, wait a few days until they release you and presto- you are now safely in the US.

This is not only disorderly but also overloads the asylum system and frustrates the people that actually do qualify for asylum. Many ways to fix it- funding more judges to expedite trials seems obvious.

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The missing piece here seems to be discouraging "asylum seeking" by people who are just seeking better conditions than they have at home, by rapidly hearing their cases and sending back those who cannot prove a legitimate asylum claim.

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"Does what it says on the tin" = the WYSIWYGlesias rule.

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Disclaimer: speaking for myself, not my employer.

"We should be letting Silicon Valley hire foreign-born programmers in unlimited numbers." I can't disagree with this enough. We're just now starting to see companies (large and small) investing in skill development and training programs because the supply for high skill product development programmers is far too small for demand. Full employment is going to force companies to invest in the human capital development and the second you allow unlimited immigration, that all goes out the window. I can't think of a better use for the billions of dollars major tech companies are sitting on than job training programs.

From my recent national hiring round, I'd estimate that 80% or more of the programmers in the US could get 20-30% more productive with the right training and processes in place. We ended up hiring two engineers from another tech hub because nobody else had the skills we needed.

Full employment will force me to hire and train up folks who I just passed on; unlimited immigration will perpetuate the winner-take-all tech hubs setup that so detrimental.

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Do most Slow Boring readers consider themselves liberal because I feel like the comment section is always really conservatives. Are SB readers just conservatives that like that MY wants to reduce housing regulation?

I feel like we should do a poll.

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I support significantly higher levels of skilled legal immigration, but as a programmer myself, I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of letting the tech industry hire foreign programmers in "unlimited" numbers. This is one of the best industries to get a job in domestically right now. I’m all for letting a lot of non-citizen programmers come here, many of my coworkers are not US citizens, but unlimited might be a bit much!

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Agree on legal immigration, and I think Biden could have improved on the safe third country agreements instead of scrapping them by committing US personnel to allow for US asylum applications in those countries. I think this is definitely an out of sight, out of mind problem, so the more the Biden admin can do to stem the migrant flow away from US borders the better. Politically, I don't even think it matters much how migrants are treated so long as it's not at the US border. I don't think that's moral, just cynical political calculus.

But can we touch on guns quickly? Nick Kristoff republished his 2017 column about reducing gun deaths, and his primary (correct) point is that most gun deaths are not in mass shootings, but in suicides, accidents, or mano-a-mano homicides. He then makes pretty boilerplate gun control proposals, all of which I support.

But he also tries to de-emphasize mass shootings, which, while its true they represent a small fraction of overall gun deaths, I think it's also true they exact a high psychological cost on the nation every time they occur. They're sensational and terrifying, much more like a terrorist attack than a standard gun death. Reducing mass shootings should almost be a policy goal separate from reducing gun death overall. Gun deaths generally are a public health crisis driven by suicides, poor saftey/storage, and bad socioeconomics. Mass shootings are caused by availability of reasonably high power semiautomatic weapons and someone deranged enough to use them.

I think a full ban on all semiautomatic weapons above a .22 caliber would do the trick. The 1934 National Firearms Act didn't eliminate supply of Sears catalogue Tommy guns overnight, but overtime, attrition cause the supply of civilian-owned fully automatic weapons to drop to basically zero, with the remaining supply being tightly controlled by an expensive and slow stamp system managed by the BATF. Over time, the same would be true of semi-automatics, and you wouldn't even need to confiscate or ban ownership of existing weapons. Just sale of such weapons manufactured as of passage of the law. You'd still have lots of ARs and other weapons in circulation for a few years, but the supply would drop as collectors buy up what's left and they simply break/wear out.

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"Own the libs by granting more visas to foreign professionals! I will be extremely owned!"

This is a fair argument, but the Republicans control neither the Senate nor the House floor, right? I would love (for very obvious reasons of self-interest) to see a vote on a bill that says that STEM PhDs get a pathway to citizenship (without that being tied to less popular things).

As we used to joke back in the day "The Republican Party wants to kick us out. The Democratic Party also wants to kick us out, but they would let us stay, if we were willing to violate the law first.".

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Other than for political reasons, why shouldn't Democrats support an Open Borders policy?

This seems like an issue where if you take the rhetoric seriously the policies that follow are going to be pretty extreme. Is there some problem with open borders that we are solving with current policies? It seems like people are still coming in but we are just creating various underclasses of people with less-than-citizen statuses.

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I'm for much higher legal immigration to address the problem but given that's politically unlikely, I favor using our leverage over Mexico or one of the Central American countries to acquire a 99-year lease on a Hong-Kong sized (or better yet, bigger) coastal territory with potential for a decent port. Establish rule-of-law and a fairly libertarianish economy. Maybe you could get Jeff Bezos to run it for the first twenty years as a civic contribution; hire Alex Tabbarok and Zeynep Tukfeci to arrange the legislative and administrative order. Provide free passage for all illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. Anyone anywhere in the world who wants to come directly can do so. Open Borders. Asylum claims can be processed there (best of all would be to internationalize asylum claims so all the better-to-do countries take a share). Individuals retain their home citizenship and have no more rights to enter U.S. than any other global citizen. To the extent that the territory can provide a better life, people will come and it will do more than any human rights program to better the world. The rent paid to Mexico or other Central American country plus the initial subsidies to get it running will probably be less than what we spend on the current disastrous system. It's perfectly plausible that the thing will be financially self-sustaining after a while.

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It’s time for progressives to stop hemming and hawing and openly embrace what they really believe in: open borders. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! As a libertarian, I believe that the purpose of a border is to mark the jurisdiction of a government – not to divide people and control their movements. But no one listens to libertarians. Progressives have MSNBC.

I think the reason progressives hesitate to take this position is that the open borders argument aligns with ideas they abhor. The free movement of people is entirely consistent with free markets, free trade, freedom to contract, property rights – if I want to hire or rent an apartment to someone who is from the other side of a line in the sand drawn by politicians, that is a private capitalist transaction.

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I think, without changing any immigration laws or requirements, you could make a huge improvement to the US immigration system by just making the bureaucracy adequate to the job.

Process everything faster, don't make people sit around waiting weeks for visas, make it less hostile and stressful for applicants, give people the confidence that they can go home to visit family and still get their permits renewed.

Right now it's a totally dysfunctional system, I think perhaps deliberately screwed up by the Trump administration.

I have no idea how ordinary citizens can advocate for this, though.

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I feel like it's worth emphasizing the fact that "make life better in Honduras and El Salvador" and "let in a lot more immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador" are not only not mutually exclusive goals but in fact the latter is one of the best tools at our disposal for achieving the former.

Sending money to the _governments_ of those counties is a fraught proposition: one of the reasons they are so poor is endemic corruption. But letting a whole bunch of Salvadorans and Hondurans who are willing to make the rather difficult trek up to the border in and allowing them to work here allows those people to remit money _directly_ back to their families at home. And as our host has been at pains to point out in other contexts: giving more money to poor people is good!

Obviously COVID has made this more complicated in that there's currently no guarantee that they would be able to find employment here if allowed to, but that's likely to be far less of a problem in six months.

The combined population of El Salvador and Honduras is just shy of 16 million people. One can safely assume that the number of citizens there who would be inclined to emigrate even under a literal open-borders policy of the USA would be rather less than 100% -- the single largest voluntary human migration in history was the Italian diaspora, which involved 13 million people over _35 years_.

And frankly if the GOP were in any way thinking long-term about this, especially looking at the trends from the last election, they should be getting _really excited_ about the idea of a massive influx of largely deeply religious and relatively culturally conservative workers, especially into Arizona and Texas.

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