How was the immigration of Akayed Ullah supposed to benefit native-born Americans?

According to “New York attack: What do we know about Akayed Ullah?” (BBC):

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Ullah entered the US on an F43 visa.

This means he was the child of someone with an F41 visa, which is available to people who are the “brother or sister of a US citizen at least 21 years old”.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission told CNN that Ullah held a taxi driver’s licence from March 2012 to March 2015.

The Inspector General of Police in Bangladesh, AKM Shahidul Haque, said Ullah had no criminal record in Bangladesh.

In light of the Port Authority bombing that he perpetrated, it seems safe to say Mr. Ullah’s life in the U.S. didn’t turn out well either for him or for us, but what was the best case scenario for native-born Americans? Mr. Ullah’s education and skills were presumably appropriate to the taxi-driving job that we expect to be eliminated by robots. Mr. Ullah settled in a city that most Americans regarded as already overcrowded when he immigrated.

[Mr. Ullah was a law-abiding citizen in Bangladesh, according to the BBC, so he likely would have been better off staying there.]

Readers: What is the theory that drove us to welcome Mr. Ullah?

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25 thoughts on “How was the immigration of Akayed Ullah supposed to benefit native-born Americans?

  1. “What is the theory that drove us to welcome Mr. Ullah”

    In order to answer this question one would need to examine all F43 visa holders (or some representative sample of them), not just one individual who comes to your attention because they have committed a newsworthy crime. For an MIT PhD who routinely excoriates journalists for statistical innumeracy, this one is a whopper.

  2. Neal: I think you’d be right if people were automatically entitled to F43 immigration based on blood relationship (“child of sibling of already-present immigrant”), but if there is any discretion regarding whether to grant F43 status then Mr. Ullah’s immigration was a decision about Mr. Ullah only.

    It is not the case that every child of every brother or sister of an existing immigrant can get a Green Card, is it? If an immigrant has 10 siblings and each has 10 children then 100 people can charter a B737 and all move to the U.S. on the same day by right?

  3. Neal, your reply is stupid. To ask Philip’s question more straightforwardly for you:

    Under what theory is the admission of someone who is a statistically typical member of the class of people with approximately Mr. Ullah’s background and qualifications, on average, beneficial to American citizens (not future citizens including himself, current ones)?

  4. “if there is any discretion regarding whether to grant F43 status then Mr. Ullah’s immigration was a decision about Mr. Ullah only”

    The decision to welcome Mr. Ullah was the output of a system which makes many (thousands, tens of thousands?) such decisions each year. Trying to understand the “theory” behind such a system by examining a single atypical output is an unsound analysis approach.

    Joe Shipman: Actually, you asked a different and not very interesting question in a rather obtuse way.

  5. I think the point Phil is making is not that hard to grasp — that it is questionable whether our immigration system is admitting the people we need.

  6. He came under a chain migration visa. His relatives were lonely and wanted him around. And America isn’t mean, so we let them bring him.

    The real problem is that we didn’t let him in turn bring enough of his relatives over, so he was lonely. That’s why he bombed.

  7. Neal, the decision to welcome Ullah was made before he detonated a bomb. As you point out, maybe thousands of others were admitted with similar reasoning. That is all the more reason to understand what that reasoning was.

  8. Phil: It may indeed be the case that (nearly) every child of every brother or sister of an existing immigrant CAN get a Green Card, unless they are subject to country based quota (e.g. for people from India and China, in which case one may have to wait 25 years or more; and these countries are separated from the US by large oceans so the undocumented option is not logistically easy either).

  9. I think getting the visa is not enough for Ullah or any immigrant there has to be a a regular check on how are the immigrants doing maybe from there we can clearly know what are in the minds of this immigrants for the safety of everyone.

  10. The question is an example of “begging the question”. It assumes that this immigration policy exists to “benefit native Americans”.

  11. Davep: True, but not because I think that a country’s immigration policy should or must be designed to benefit native-born residents. It is only that the current laws were, presumably, voted into existence by a majority of native-born American citizens (since there are 43 million immigrants in the U.S., a minority of the population; see https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states ). And then I assume that people generally vote for their perceived self-interest.

  12. philg: The group the reasoning in #14 would apply to would be “U.S. Citizens”, not “native Americans” (which is actually ambiguous but I presume was intended to refer to native born American citizens and not the First People).

  13. Most American citizens may be native born, but I would assume many of them remember and even celebrate the fact that their ancestors immigrated into the US at some point in the past.

  14. Dan: Interesting idea. So Americans overall would vote to admit people such as Akayed Ullah because seeing him walk down the street in New York City or having him as a neighbor would bring back warm memories regarding their own family’s immigration 100, 150, or 250 years ago? Even if he was expected to be a drain on the economy (e.g., due to expenditures on means-tested public housing, food stamps, subsidized health insurance, perhaps an Obamaphone, etc.), he would still make the average American better off due to the pleasure of contemplating historical immigration?

  15. philg: Considering the “the pleasure of contemplating historical immigration” is not required. It is economically rational for Americans to support an immigration system that provides an overall net economic benefit to the country even if some fraction of those admitted end up being a drain on the economy.

  16. Philg: “True, but not because I think that a country’s immigration policy should or must be designed to benefit native-born residents.”

    I have no idea whether you think the policy should or shouldn’t be so designed.

    The issue is that your question assumed it was.

    Philg: “It is only that the current laws were, presumably, voted into existence by a majority of native-born American citizens (since there are 43 million immigrants in the U.S.,”

    Only a tiny fraction of US citizens get to vote for laws.

  17. @Neal, “It is economically rational for Americans to support an immigration system that provides an overall net economic benefit to the country even if some fraction of those admitted end up being a drain on the economy.”

    The odd thing for me about liberals is how they whine about any proposed immigration restrictions, yet the typical favorite countries they hold up as economic and immigration models like Canada, Australia, and Europe use very restrictive immigration policies. The reality is most of the rest of the world makes it very hard to immigrate. Both Canada and Australia use a point system that favors education, skills and youth. Germany, where I live now needs: 1) A recognized university diploma – for unrecognized professions 2) A valid work contract of at least one year in the hosting state 3) For regulated professions – the equivalent certificate or license of profession 4) Proof that your salary exceeds the average in Germany by 1.5 times or 1.2 times for professions in shortage, 4)A written declaration by your employer 5) A valid travel document 6) Not pose any threat to the public policy, security or health of the hosting state. All that for the privilege of paying German taxes, rent, and utilities.

    Unless of course you claim to be a refugee. Then you don’t need any documents and you get 2 years worth of housing, rent, and utilities for free plus a cash stipend.

  18. GermanL: I don’t see how my statement you quote could possible be characterized as a “whine about any proposed immigration restrictions”.

  19. GermanL: “The odd thing for me about liberals is how they whine about any proposed immigration restrictions, yet the typical favorite countries they hold up as economic and immigration models like Canada, Australia, and Europe use very restrictive immigration policies.”

    Do they do all of this?

  20. @Neal, “It is economically rational for Americans to support an immigration system that provides an overall net economic benefit to the country even if some fraction of those admitted end up being a drain on the economy.”

    It would seem that people shouldn’t fly because some planes crash.

  21. Speaking as an immigrant myself (with the biases inherent therein), I believe that the US needs to understand what kinds of immigration benefit the nation, and in what quantity. You are welcoming an outsider into your home, and have the right to determine if the outsider will add net value or detract from it. Also, you have a right to restrict your invitation to the outsider alone (perhaps a spouse and kids), and not to his parents, in-laws, siblings, etc. You are not being discriminatory if you do not allow certain outsiders into your home, by criteria defined by you. At the end of the day, it is your decision, and no one has an inherent right to reside in your home but yourself.

  22. The primary theory here is the Theory of Comparative Advantage ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage ) which suggests that in general a country benefits from trading with people who are *very different* from its own citizens. The fact that Bangladeshis have a *different* mix of interests and skills than Americans makes trade profitable, whether the form of trade is buying and selling stuff across boarders or letting people from one side of a border cross to do business with people on the other side.

    Economists tend to take it as a given that letting people in – even from much lower-productivity countries – eventually tends to be a net-positive transaction for both sides.

    On top of that there’s some additional theory behind “chain migration” which seems to be: since we are only letting in relatively *few* people from Bangladesh and have to decide *which* ones to let in, we might as well favor those with existing relatives here. *That* theory says that having existing ties to the community will make for an easier transition – the new immigrants should find it easier to get work, find housing, deal with local authorities and such if there are some people around who share their specific cultural background and can help them out especially when encountering language or cultural barriers.

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