This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Immigration Work-Around

The immigration system in the United States remains firmly rooted in family preference as the most important route to legal permanent residence. In 2010, for example, the Department of Homeland Security data show that 68 percent of all legal permanent immigrants entered because they were relatives of US citizens, whereas only 14 percent entered on the basis of an employment preference. At the bottom end of the labor market, this leads to a large group of undocumented immigrants doing the work that US citizens won't do. At the top end of the labor market, it leads to a deficit in the number of highly trained people to do the work for which there are not enough US citizens to fill the gaps. Timothy Lee of ars technica reports today that a Bay Area entrepreneur has come up with an ambitious plan to provide high-end immigrant help to Silicon Valley.

[A] new company called Blueseed is seeking to bypass the political process and solve the problem directly. Blueseed plans to buy a ship and turn it into a floating incubator anchored in international waters off the coast of California.
Ars talked to Blueseed founder Max Marty. He acknowledged that it would be better for America to reform immigration laws and thereby make his company unnecessary. But in the meantime, Marty and his team are hard at work tackling the practical obstacles to making their vision of a floating, year-round hack-a-thon a reality. Within the next year, they're hoping to raise a venture capital round large enough to lease or buy a ship with space for around a thousand passengers. If Blueseed's audacious hack of the immigration system is successful, it will not only open up Silicon Valley to a broader range of entrepreneurs, it will also shine a spotlight on the barriers American law places in the way of immigrants seeking to start businesses in the United States.
Blueseed is trying to overcome the limitations of American immigration law, but its business model also depends crucially on the goodwill of American immigration officials. That's because a key part of the Blueseed sales pitch is that residents will be able to make regular trips to the mainland.
Immigration law makes it difficult for many would-be immigrants to get permission to work in the United States. For example, there's an annual cap on the number of H1-B visas available for American employers to hire skilled immigrant workers. However, permission to travel to the United States for business or tourism is much easier to get.
With any luck, the publicity associated with trying to get this effort going will have on impact on Congress to think more seriously about our woefully inadequate immigration policy. That said, it is hard to imagine anything happening until 2013, after the next national elections.

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