Because TPS just ain’t enough

U.S. policy wipes out more than 80 percent of a Haitian’s earning power when it keeps him from coming to the United States. This affects everything from the food he can buy to the construction materials he can afford. The difference has nothing to do with his ability or effort; it results purely from where he is.

That is Michael Clemens in the Washington Post. His advice:

it’s time to consider an entire new class of immigration — call it a “golden door” visa, to be issued in limited numbers to people from the poorest countries, such as Haiti. It could be permanent or temporary, but that’s less important than its core purpose.

Our immigration law has traditionally had three primary goals: reuniting families, supplying employers and protecting refugees. But part of America’s greatness is that in letting people come, the nation has pursued a fourth, unwritten goal: extending opportunity to those born in places without it. A golden door visa would simply recognize in law what the United States has done since its founding.

10 thoughts on “Because TPS just ain’t enough

  1. The closest thing I’ve heard of to this ‘golden visa’ is the Diversity Visa. Heard about it in Liberia because one day the NEPI accountant was all of a sudden in America sporting his new passport sticker.

    Just scrolled the list and noticed that Haiti doesn’t make the list of candidates.. along with.. yes, its true Prof. Blattman, .. our very own Canada.

  2. @Bryan: It’s true that the Diversity Visa allows a very small number of people from poor countries to come to the US, but this is by coincidence — the allocation is based only on how many people from that country are already in the US, not based on poverty in the country of origin. Thus Haiti for example, does not qualify for the Diversity Visa.

  3. It seems like the US already pushes away tens of thousands of highly educated, highly skilled professionals every year through the work authorization quotas… how likely is it to accept hundreds of thousands more of unskilled, non-english speaking labor? ideally we would take both, but if you could only choose one, it’s not obvious that it should be the latter.

  4. Interestingly enough, we don’t seem to have as much of a problem with highly educated Haitians…80% of their college educated class lives abroad many in the United States (Docquier and Marfouk, 2006) yet we have been active in deterring their undocumented migration and allow very few less educated Haitians to enter the country. I think its very clear in the Haitian case that our immigration policies are actively hurting development in terms of both lost potential higher return to labor and the “brain drain” scenario, which while debatable in many cases, seems to be true of the Caribbean region.

  5. @oasis: First, the ‘golden door’ visa doesn’t need to mean “hundreds of thousands” more people. It could be done in a numbers-neutral way, such that the same number of people came, but there were a greater focus — even a small weight — on countries where there is little economic opportunity. Nothing like that exists in US immigration law. Second, even if it did mean more people, why is that bad? My ancestors from German were low-income, unskilled, non-English-speaking people who tended cows. They also built America, as today’s low-skill immigrants are (literally) doing.

  6. @K.L. Maxwell — If allowing skilled people to leave Haiti “actively hurts development” in Haiti, then forcibly stopping skilled people from leaving Haiti would help development in Haiti. Those are logically equivalent statements. I think that trapping educated people somewhere against their will is an ineffective and profoundly unethical way to carry out “development”.

  7. @Michael Clemens, I absolutely agree and I am not proposing such a backwards solution – I would advocate freer movement of all labor, skilled and unskilled. However, I was simply pointing out the reality of our policy is that we seek to keep unskilled labor in country (driving down the return to unskilled labor) while allowing those people who do have skills to exit. The solution is certainly not to coerce them into staying but it does make one ask the question, how is a country meant to function in terms of government, industry, etc. when almost all of its more capable population is fleeing?

  8. I have often thought, after observing how many nurses, PT and homecare workers come from the Philippines and other developing nations, that one tool for helping Haiti would be to open two- and four-year schools there for nursing and related degrees. The US is in short supply in many health professionals areas and will remain so for some time to come. The remittances will be good and those that come here that can go further in their education will do so, aiding us and them even more. Granted it’s not a fast track, but even if several thousand people follow this path it would likely help more people in Haiti then building more textile factories. (Plus some would stay in country with this education, see the “Arming the donkeys” podcast about how brain drains create benefits in country, providing additional benefits).