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Noah Smith

The U.S. Is Crazy to Scare Skilled Immigrants Away

Welcoming foreign talent is a win-win policy.

A better approach.

A better approach.

Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has done a lot to scare high-skilled immigrants away from the U.S. He has made it harder for them to get green cards. He has blocked some foreign students from entering and discouraged others from working during school. He is considering banning the spouses of H-1b visa holders from working in the country at all. The harassment campaign appears to be working. H-1b applications are down, as is the number of visas being issued to overseas students:

It’s hard to see what this accomplishes other than whipping up enthusiasm from Trump’s anti-immigrant base. It stifles the flow of foreign students to the research universities that are the best hope for an economic revival in declining regions. It starves the tech industry of talented workers. It hurts native-born workers: Evidence suggests that skilled immigration actually raises wages for Americans of all skill levels, by strengthening the local tech industry. It drains government coffers, because skilled immigrants pay much more in taxes than they use in government benefits.