PLAYER PROFILE

Dr. George J. Borjas

Professor of Economics at Harvard University

Dr. George J. Borjas is the rare academic who questions the positive effects of immigration on the economy. In 2017, when 1,470 leading economists signed off on a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders, entreating them to see the value that immigrants bring to the U.S. economy, Borjas — a professor of economics at the Harvard Kennedy School since 1995 — was not among the signatories.

Called “America’s leading immigration economist” by Bloomberg News, Borjas’s work largely focuses on immigration’s impact on wages of American workers. His most notable work on the subject is a 2017 study suggesting that the Mariel boatlift, which brought tens of thousands of Cubans to south Florida, played a major role in depressing wages for native-born Miamians.

An immigrant himself who came to the U.S. as a child fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Borjas rejects the charge that his conservative economic viewpoint makes him xenophobic and worries that his peers often feel pressure to be pro-immigration regardless of the data in front of them. As he told Peter Beinart in an Atlantic cover story about immigration policy’s “inconvenient truths,” there’s “a lot of self-censorship among young social scientists.”

In one blog post, Borjas wrote that “there is something uniquely historic and extraordinary about the United States having offered hope to the ‘tired and the poor’ from other countries for so long. And I, for one, would like to see this continue. But the continuation of this policy requires that the number of low-skill immigrants be set in a responsible fashion. Low-skill immigration cannot be allowed to create sizable — and uncompensated — dislocations in the economic opportunities of low-skill Americans.”

SOURCES:

Borjas’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    While he does not specify what border security should look like, Borjas does emphasize the importance of stopping illegal crossings. “I think if we’re going to talk about changing immigration policy,” he said in a 2017 interview, “the first thing we have to do is be sure that . . . immigration slows down dramatically. Because if anyone can cross the border or overstay a visa, it really makes a mockery of legal immigration policy.”

  • Border Wall

    Borjas does not support the building of more barriers at the border.

  • Detention

    No statement found.

  • Immigration Courts

    No statement found.

  • Undocumented Population

    Borjas opposes mass deportations, calling them inhumane. However, he does not support a pathway to legal residency until a revised border security policy proves effective at dramatically reducing illegal crossings.

  • ICE

    No statement found.

  • DACA

    Borjas has argued that DACA enrollees have suppressed wages for American workers.

  • Asylum

    No statement found.

  • Central America Policy

    No statement found.

  • Visas

    Borjas has proposed taxing high-tech, agricultural, and service-sector companies that profit from cheap immigrant labor and using the money to compensate those Americans who are displaced by it. He also supports expanded use of the E-Verify system.