161 Comments
Apr 18, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Noah, this is one of my favorites articles from you. I think you are right. We should gain far more long term benefit of hard working Chinese American patriots than the insidious Chinese spies crossing our borders that popular belief holds to.

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"America's freedom does not belong to just one nation. We're custodians of freedom for the world…"

Absolutely beautiful Noah! 🤘🏽

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 🕯️🕯️💡🌞

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Apr 20, 2023·edited Apr 20, 2023

Imagine that you’re a Chinese person living in the mainland. As Noah asserts, you're tired of the heavy hand of the CCP and yearn for freedom and the City on the Hill. After all, you live in a country where the government engages in censorship and foreign apps are routinely banned. Heck, even TikTok is banned in mainland China. The Chinese version is called Douyin.

You decide that you don’t want to live in a country where the government dictates what content you can and can’t consume. A country where TikTok is banned doesn’t embody the values that you aspire to. You don't want to use the censored local version, Douyin. You want to be able to use TikTok like the rest of the world. So you decide to move to America instead. You’re ecstatic. Freedom at last!

You arrive in your new homeland. The country where you came from is routinely trashed, although some Americans begrudgingly concede that people like you are okay at STEM so maybe we can let some of you in as long as we're certain you aren't treacherous spies.

Politicians on both the left and the right assert that China is the greatest threat to the well-being of the American republic. The only way to counter this malign threat is to grant the government dictatorial powers through the RESTRICT Act so that it can ban TikTok. Even Noah Smith tells you that this has to be done.

https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/yes-of-course-we-should-ban-tiktok

You left China because you didn’t want to live in a country that would ban an app like TikTok. You’re overjoyed that you no longer live in such a country. Oh wait...

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You decided to distill the concept of a free society and why a Chinese person would chose to leave China all down to ... banning TikTok? I’m sorry, but I don’t think tik tok is the deciding factor.

And the fact that Noah can write such a post,

people can have robust conversation in the comments, and you can write a pretty critical comment of the US government without reprisals/censoring suggests there is a difference between what freedom means in the US and China

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Apr 18, 2023·edited Apr 19, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

I had an office in China many years ago. I closed it because of real fears to our safety. We continued to discover fraudulent audits of Chinese companies listed on US stock exchanges. Our research angered many. Roll forward to 2019 I bumped into an old colleague in KL. Cutting the story short, she said "All educated Chinese with any western travel are trying to leave before they die." Look at emigrants to the US. They are from communists counties or socialist dictatorships. The US is Eldorado the glimmering golden city on a a hill. We need to keep it as Eldorado with good gates but also a welcoming policy.

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But they don't look like me 😭😭😭

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Or me, thank goodness!

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We need to be brain-draining the crap out of China. It’s always been our super power.

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Just the opposite is happening. Anti-Asian sentiment stirred up by Trump and his stooge in the NIH have driven many top Chinese scientists and researchers back to China or someplace safe that will appreciate their skills.

https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-us-is-losing-scientists-to-china-competition-51664825686

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🤔

“Anti-Asian sentiment stirred up by Trump ...”?

How so?

Be specific, if you can.

Also: Whose name do you ascribe to the contemptible use of “stooge” as applied in your comment?

Yes, I read the attached article. Missing: actual case refs to support what could easily be dismissed as blanket biased innuendo.

Perhaps it (the article) deserves a second read?

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"For decades, Chinese-born U.S. faculty members were applauded for working with colleagues in China, and their universities cited the rich payoff from closer ties to the emerging scientific giant. But those institutions did an about-face after they began to receive emails in late 2018 from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The emails asked some 100 institutions to investigate allegations that one or more of their faculty had violated NIH policies designed to ensure federal funds were being spent properly. Most commonly, NIH claimed a researcher was using part of a grant to do work in China through an undisclosed affiliation with a Chinese institution. Four years later, 103 of those scientists—some 42% of the 246 targeted in the letters, most of them tenured faculty members—had lost their jobs.

In contrast to the very public criminal prosecutions of academic scientists under the China Initiative launched in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump to thwart Chinese espionage, NIH’s version has been conducted behind closed doors. Michael Lauer, head of NIH’s extramural research, says that secrecy is necessary to protect the privacy of individual scientists, who are not government employees. Universities consider the NIH-prompted investigations to be a personnel matter, and thus off-limits to queries from reporters. And the targeted scientists have been extremely reticent to talk about their ordeal."

https://www.science.org/content/article/pall-suspicion-nihs-secretive-china-initiative-destroyed-scores-academic-careers

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Thank you for the additional cut and paste. An interesting rabbit-hole worthy a deep-dive, to be sure.

Still, the winds-of-war with China have been blowing a long time, the storm is coming, probably sooner than later; not sure how an obvious national security action, seemingly intended to mitigate a recognized adversaries suspected intel gathering advantage as an “anti-asian” act of targeted racism?

The CCP is a dangerously patient, clever adversary; last time I checked, they were pretty much all Chinese (at least the ones not sloppy with their laptops); is the US gov, regardless of who’s running it, supposed to turn a blind eye and take only soft-gloved baby-steps defending ourselves, simple because they’re “Asian”?

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Apr 20, 2023·edited Apr 20, 2023

I think we need to take a step back and make sure that we've correctly identified the problem, because the consequences of being wrong are dire. To echo John's point, we have data points such as PISA or number of STEM graduates suggesting that China is doing a much better job educating its children than we are. In fact American scores on international assessments such as PISA or TIMSS are misleading because they aggregate multiple racial groups. When you disaggregate the data you find that Black and Hispanic students score much lower on average than their white and Asian counterparts. Given that an increasingly larger share of American cohorts are becoming non-white each year, the fact that we're unable to properly educate our Black and Hispanic students should be considered a massive failing.

One of my favorite heterodox thinkers is economist Glenn Loury. He often talks about addressing the enemy within when he speaks to the Black community about self improvement. Sure some of the current predicament of Black Americans can be traced to the historical legacies of slavery and oppression, but Black Americans also need to reflect on how they can cultivate the right values conducive to success in the 21st century. As Americans I also recommend that we seek to first address the enemy within.

While I’m sure espionage and theft has taken place given that China is a late comer and has spent much of the past few decades catching up, I’ve expressed skepticism above that the magnitude of this is as large as most Americans assume. In any case, to the extent that it actually exists, is it unique and ahistorical or does it bear parallels to past eras? I’ve heard some people compare the situation today to when America committed espionage and IP theft against the British textile industry in past centuries.

I say all this because if China’s rapid rise is mostly the result of espionage and theft, then it seems that the correct solution is to go all out to eliminate it. Let’s assume every single academic of Chinese descent is guilty and harass them all back to China. We should probably also do what some Republican hawks want and ban all Chinese nationals from studying STEM in America. On the other hand, if a larger proportion of the explanation is due to China’s success in cultivating its indigenous human capital and America’s corresponding failure to cultivate ours, then I’m worried that we’re basically barking up the wrong tree.

I keep hearing that this country will become majority Black and Hispanic by the 2040s. This worries me because all of the educational attainment metrics suggest that we’ve utterly failed to educate this particular segment of our population. Doesn’t that have some impact on our ability to compete with China over the coming decades?

I notice that Noah is big on elite immigration but hasn't opined nearly as much about how to raise academic performance among non-Asian minorities in this country. Isn’t it telling that many of our tech companies and science labs are staffed by people from countries like India, China or South Korea? Does that suggest in any way that we’ve inadequately cultivated indigenous talent? As an American I’m surprised that we’re so angry at the Chinese and are adamant that they’re cheating or stealing when we seem to love hiring them at our elite institutions. When a non-trivial number of STEM workers hail from countries in East Asia or South Asia, why should we be angry or surprised when those countries outcompete us and force us to raise our game?

I'd love to hear Noah's opinion on America's seeming inability to properly educate much of its Black and Hispanic population. Relying on foreigners from countries that you're directly competing against doesn't seem like a sustainable long term solution.

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Welcome to our conversation Yan..

There’s a lot to unpack so-far, hopefully I’ll be able to reengage before this new day is over.

Till then, Good Night guys!

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The scientific community generally is committed to be an open source trading information rather freely. Suddenly, the Trump administration declared a war on China and targeted them for sharing critical scientific information that previously was encouraged to be shared. China is not at "war" with the U.S. but it seems we are at war with them.

The Chinese are very intelligent and diligent. They spend a lot of time and money educating their children and strive to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine). If we are going to compete with China, we have a massive restructuring of America to do before we can hope to win.

China can become a valuable partner or our worst enemy. It is our choice and we better chose correctly. We are being forced to up our game and we can either bitch about it blaming China or look critically at ourselves and commit to the changes needed.

https://www.industryweek.com/talent/article/21998889/the-countries-with-the-most-stem-graduates

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Hardly likely to brain-drain the crap out of China if we're just accepting asylum claimants wily-nily rather than targeting the most highly-skilled immigrants possible.

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Apr 18, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Our thoughts on immigration come from the labor surpluses of the 2010s despite our current labor shortage. We always fight the last war.

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Yes, we have a labour shortage, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't prioritise skilled immigration.

If we had a merit system and a skill quota we could admit a lot more Chinese and Indians—not

as indentured servants but as green card holders eligible for full citizenship in 5 years.

Why isn’t business lobbying for that? Because they prefer indentured servants who can’t get another job in the US without the sponsor’s permission to free immigrants who can quit and work for a rival.

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Focusing on skilled immigrants is fine during times of constrained housing, but once that constraint goes away you should unleash the flood.

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We're not remotely close to that situation right now,

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Which is why I said it was fine

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What labour surplus?

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There was persistent high unemployment and low age adjusted labor participation rate especially towards the beginning of the 2010s.

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Oh, true, the Fed really screwed up economy in the late 2000s and didn't let it recover properly for ages.

To some that might look like a labour surplus.

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Idk what you mean by “that might look like a labour surplus”. AD of labor being lower than AS of labor at a particular price(or rather than ratio of them being beneath some benchmark) is what a labor surplus is, regardless of the cause of why AD is lower then AS.

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Yes, the market didn't clear.

What I meant that adding or removing migrants (or people in general) wouldn't have changed that, so in that sense there wasn't a surplus.

I agree that higher unemployment makes immigration seem like a worse deal to most natives, a la 'the foreigners are taking our jobs.' Whether that makes sense or not.

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Yeah I was talking about your third paragraph. People are much more anti immigrant during times of persistent unemployment regardless of how logical it is.

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My family were illegal immigrants to Canada. Of course we weren't called that - we were called 'defectors', because we were from Poland, escaping the evils of communism. There was a fairly rigorous screening process to make sure we weren't spies, but ultimately there was an assumption that we were oppressed people yearning for freedom. Mostly we were yearning for a bit of cash and a nice house, of course. The Canadian dream. We were citizens within four years.

We should extend the same courtesy to Chinese refugees, and the US should too. Yes, maybe a few spies or policemen get through. But every wave of migration from oppressive states has provided incalculable benefits to the US. This one will too.

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Are you aware of the current process for screening immigrants to Canada? My understanding is that it's a points system based on education, skills, and cultural / linguistic compatibility. Completely different than in America: you look at your national interest and needs first; we look at the immigrant's interests and needs first.

There are few pieces of Canadian law that I would emulate, but your immigration policy is one of the few.

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Most migrants have an easier time getting into Canada than the US. So those migrants' needs are served better by the Canadian system.

Since when does the US look at migrants' when deciding who to let in?

(I'm not talking about asylum. That's handled separately in both countries.)

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I only know what I've read about the Canadian system, but Canada posts their points system right on their website:

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/express-entry/eligibility/criteria-comprehensive-ranking-system/grid.html

The vast majority of points are given to education, skills, and linguistic aptitude. And the vast majority of Canadian immigrants follow this path; less than 10% are asylum seekers and Canada rapidly deports border jumpers.

Data:

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/asylum-claims/asylum-claims-2022.html

https://www.statista.com/statistics/443063/number-of-immigrants-in-canada/

The United States does not have a points based immigration system at all. (https://www.migrationpolicy.org/content/explainer-how-us-legal-immigration-system-works) 2/3rds of US immigrants get their green card not based on being useful to America, but based on family connections.

Hence my point that we look first at what is good for the immigrant, while Canada looks first at what is good for Canada.

And that ignores the fact that most US immigrants (by a 3:1 ratio at least) do not enter by the legal immigration process at all. They jump the fence, and everyone seems to acknowledge that our deportation process is completely broken.

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I am one of the millions of Chinese that came to America for school and stayed for the freedom, in the sense that wrong could be contested and corrected with the principles codified in law.

From my brief time working in China, and from my college-educated middle class friends who still are living in China, I am seeing how the culture of suppression (in all aspects, societal issues, dissents, and self) is warping minds and causing endless pain. Human beings are being turned into controlling machines that perpetuate the vicious cycle. I am grateful that I had the means to escape that.

Though I was alarmed to discover there is a portion of Chinese sharing my background and residing in America actually deep down sympathizing with the political climate in China, to a degree due to nationalist sentiment. This really shows me true enlightenment does not simply come once people are removed from a bad place.

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Some years back I half-jokingly proposed that we should invite Hong Kong to move to Detroit. Like, anyone and everyone that lives there and would rather live in the US. Hong Kong needs out from under the thumb of the CCP, and Detroit needs an influx of industrious people to populate its hollowed-out neighborhoods.

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Then in 40 years Windsor, Ontario will be the next Shenzhen

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Does anyone know the demographics of the Chinese immigrants we are turning away? Since China is an ocean away, the people who are making it here must on average be a bit better off, probably better and more educated than the typical migrant. Also probably younger and employable.

We get more workers at a time when we have a shortage, the communities they settle in get a boost and we get a political win in the struggle against totalitarianism.

It's about as win-win as you can get.

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Get a job on a ship and eventually you get to Mexico.

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There approximately 100,000 jobs on ships (About 5,000 container ships with a crew of 20 each) compared to 116,000 people seeking asylum. I know you were joking, I just find it astonishing how few people move so much stuff.

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Seriously?

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And vocational training.

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"The Chinese taking the Latin America route are generally those with low incomes, education levels and skills"

That's the answer to your question, Noah. We have tons of uneducated and low skilled "asylum seekers" from our own hemisphere already.

"Folks are asylum-seekers or people who just try to escape a bad situation back home. This is a distinction without a difference ... these are people who want to get away from the China that Xi Jinping has created"

Couldn't you just as well say these are people who want to get way from...

the Mexico the cartels have created,

the Yemen the House of Saud has created,

the Vietnam the communists have created,

the Iran the mullahs have created,

the Afghanistan we Americans have created?

There are always people who desire to seek a better life abroad. Why do the Chinese have a special claim that the others do not? What about homeschoolers who are persecuted in Germany (children seized by the state)? What about Algerians in the Paris suburbs? What about Armenians displaced by Azerbaijan and Turkey? What about the residents of the Katwe slums in Uganda? Should we take all of them too? If not, why not?

Your definition ("people who just try to escape a bad situation back home") would effectively require America to take all comers who show up, regardless of education, skills, or cultural compatibility.

Serious question: Do you believe such a policy would be in America's interest? If so, why, and as a scientist, what evidence beyond the platitude that "America is a nation of immigrants" can you suggest to convince those of us who might not share your faith in open borders?

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The article did not say that America should accept all comers, even I don’t go that far although I think we should accept many times more immigrants than we do. He simply suggested that people fleeing a repressive communist regime should be given an easier way to apply for asylum by allowing travel here without a visa, which would then let those who fear their government’s repression more easily apply for asylum, which would still be adjudicated in an immigration court. Germans who fear truancy police can already take this route.

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that's why I asked the question. If you and Noah are correct -- people fleeing repressive regimes should be allowed to emigrate to America by right -- you have effectively created a "take all comers" policy.

The vast majority of the world's population lives under what, by Western, secular, liberal standards, would be considered "repressive regimes". All of China and any minority (by religion, race, or caste) in India would likely qualify = 30% of the world's population right there. Add most of the Muslim countries and you're over half. Add the central American and African dictatorships and you easily clear 2/3rds. All of whom, I believe you're saying, ought to be able to emigrate to America by right.

I'm not ragging on the sentiment. But at some point your sentiments also need to consider the effects on your own existing citizens. In true libertarian fashion, Noah would likely say that all those immigrants will be a great boon to American productivity. Even assuming he's right (an assumption I don't share), there's more to a society than economic productivity.

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I wouldn't largely have any problem with that. But the system you just described, would be characterized as xeonphobic and racist by essentially the entire ruling class of America today.

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"xeonphobic" = afraid of Xeon microprocessors

"xenophobic" = afraid of foreigners

Need to review more before hitting Post.

Of course, what if the Xeon microprocessors ar made by foreigners? Would that be xeonxenophobic? :-)

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I know the piece doesn’t state it this way, but technically speaking, asylum law protects against persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion. Race (Uighur/Tibetan) and political opinion (anything Xi doesn’t like) both are relevant for China. None of these things are major factors in Central America. And some of the examples you cited involve these factors and some don’t.

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Why not let them all in? They get a higher standard of living, and America gets more workers to counteract our labor shortage --- it's a win-win.

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Eh, just charge people to come. If you want to limit admittance, auction of green cards to the highest bidder.

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The fees to apply for asylum are already astronomical and immigration lawyers are in high demand. My grandson in the military stationed in Germany married a German woman and must pay thousands of dollars to get her permanent residency in the U.S. as his wife! The U.S. immigration system is a racket and a gold mine for those who know how to work the system.

https://www.boundless.com/immigration-resources/green-card-cost/

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It's ridiculous that you have to pay thousands for citizenship or residency by marriage or otherwise. This isn't some "luxury purchase!" You're engaging in a new and legally binding relationship with a state and a society, with both rights and responsibilities. My own process for securing residency and citizenship in Europe was lengthy, but didn't cost more than a few hundred dollars to cover the administrative costs. And it's a mockery that while my child automatically became American at birth abroad, like it or not (with all the tax implications thereof), but we'd have to shell out thousands for my wife to be able to come to the United States to live with her husband and son! A country that she has family of her own across, loves, studied in, and lived in for some years.

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Clearly, those prices are not clearing the market. Check out what would-be migrants voluntarily pay to get smuggled into the US. It's a lot more for a product that's inferior to fully legal migration.

Thousands of dollars are peanuts compared to the economic benefits even unskilled labourers get from access to the US labour market.

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We do this already. All countries do. It's called an investment visa.

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Far from "all countries do(ing)" it, this is a niche practice, and one that is becoming less and less common and less and less accepted and more restrictive in the few countries that do continue to offer such a program (especially in the case of EU countries and in European overseas territories with free trade agreements like Vanuatu because of the way that it undermines the integrity of the EU Four Freedoms and the Schengen Zone and the lax vetting of these programs for money laundering).

You can still invest your way into Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Greece but not in the vast majority of the EU/EEA. It's more common throughout the Anglophone countries of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, but with extremely high capital requirements. And, again, even among these few programs, the writing has been on the wall: Cyprus just ended their very popular, long-standing program in 2020. Both Greece and Portugal doubled the investment requirement.

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> We do this already. All countries do. It's called an investment visa.

The price is calibrated for upper instead of middle class.

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Investment visas require you to invest, not to pay a flat fee.

In any case, yes: shift almost all visa quota to that scheme then. No need for H1B or other complicated arrangements.

(If not enough people qualify to make up the same numbers as the previous H1B lot, lower the thresholds until the numbers match your desire.)

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I'd love it if we did as you suggest but, given that the current Democratic admin is literally sending Russians back to Russia knowing that they'll be likely drafted and sent to Ukraine to fight against our interests, I'm not hopeful.

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Apr 18, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Excellent analysis 👏 👍

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+10.

Immigration is the 1 thing we can solve for, right in front of us. And its great for the country short, medium and long term.

We should be doing much much higher levels of immigration.

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This is article is so naive it hurts to read.

😂

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Yet another hearty amen, Brother Noah. Freedom means freedom.

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Great piece, Noah!

The GOP never ceases to amaze me. Mike Lee, Utah’s senior Senator, looking to keep blocking or turning away immigrants mere weeks after Spencer Cox, Utah’s governor, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post with Indiana’s governor demanding Congress admit more immigrants and/or let states sponsor their own. They called out Congress for their inaction because it’s stifling growth and negatively impacting business in their states. And their not alone.

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