Should states set their own immigration quotas?
The Kauffman Foundation has a report out ranking the "new economy" states. Their methodology "measures the extent to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven and innovation-based – in other words, to what degree state economies’ structures and operations match the ideal structure of the New Economy." The winners? Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut. The laggards? Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama and Wyoming.
I never really know what to make of reports like this, but one of the metrics is "immigration of knowledge workers," which really isn't under the control of individual states. Visa quotas are set by the federal government. But why? There are a lot of places where a national solution really is best, but that seems particularly untrue in immigration. Detroit, for instance, has a lot of empty houses, a lot of shuttered factories, and a lot of emigration. They could probably use a bunch of immigrants to occupy homes, buy things, and start businesses. Similarly, California has had a pretty good experience with letting highly skilled immigrants start tech firms in the Northern part of the state. Maybe they'd like to let even more of them in to do it. These graphs explain the potential appeal (click for a larger version):
There are obvious difficulties with having a California visa that doesn't work in Oregon. But we have limited visas now -- think student visas, or temporary agricultural workers -- and we seem to get by all right. Another concern would be that certain states would be overtaken by xenophobia and basically shut off immigration, though Arizona suggests that you can do quite a lot to make immigrants miserable even without changing the number of available visas, and my hunch is that any state that went too far in this direction would face a tremendous outcry from its business community.
Graph credit: The Hamilton Project.
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