A number of economists have pledged their support for free immigration for professors in response to a challenge my Matt Yglesias. I'm happy to sign on. But I'm rather puzzled by this whole discussion. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I can tell, academia already has de facto free immigration. Yes, foreign profs have to do some annoying paperwork, but if a U.S. university wants to hire a foreign prof, how often does the law stand in the way?
I've been inside the sausage factory of academic hiring over a dozen times now. Professors without U.S. citizenship are often candidates. No one ever mentions their nationality as an obstacle to making an offer, and no offer ever falls through because of immigration problems. Similarly, over half of the students at Princeton with me were foreign, and none of them ever even hinted that immigration law stood in the way of a career in the U.S.
Is my experience so atypical? Academic victims of U.S. immigration law, please correct me if I'm wrong!