Writing at The Umlaut, Stan Tsirulnikov offers an interesting take on progressive immigration restrictionism. Tsirulnikov dubs it “immigration protectionism” and critiques it as being against the spirit of the bold changes that progressivism should be about. The targets for Tsirulnikov’s criticism include Dean Baker, head of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, for espousing strict limits on high-skilled immigration and apparently zero (?) low-skilled immigration. Another target is a piece by Josh Harkinson in Mother Jones titled How H-1B Visas Are Screwing Tech Workers. Tsirulnikov concludes:
Harkinson isn’t wrong to be concerned about the plight of struggling Americans. But as Bryan Caplan has pointed out in the past, it is morally questionable to put more emphasis on the “American” rather than the “struggling” part. Nevertheless, many progressives want to use immigration restrictions as a round-about way of helping vulnerable American workers. They know that the American public will not support direct subsidies to individual workers harmed by immigration, so they use restrictions as a cynical half-measure to prevent the supposed harm from happening at all. Baker’s proposal has the restrictions fall disproportionally on unskilled and poor foreigners, while Harkinson wants to make hiring high-skilled foreigners more difficult. But both view immigration as a potentially hostile force that needs to be managed for the exclusive benefit of Americans.
Overall, I tend to agree with Tsirulnikov. I considered progressive immigration restrictionism and its territorialist underpinnings in a blog post a little over two months ago (see also a ollow-up by Arnold Kling). I’ve also tried to address specific concerns raised by employees of the Economic Policy Institute (referenced by Harkinson’s Mother Jones piece) in the following blog posts: guest worker programs and worker abuses and Eisenbrey argues against increasing US visas for high-skilled work. Alex Nowrasteh offered a more detailed and forceful critique of Eisenbrey here.