Opinion: Immigration Policy Needs to Adapt to Economic Conditions

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 03:30 PM

Although I think some of their reasoning isn't sound, the legislation being considered that would replace the program that hands out 55,000 green cards a year to immigrants through a lottery with a program that focuses on highly educated immigrants is the right legislation at the right time. The last thing our economy needs right now is any more randomly selected immigrants added to a labor force struggling to both fill jobs in some high skill areas, while struggling to create jobs in other low skill areas.

The flawed reasoning can be summed up at the end of this quote from CQ politics, as to how the legislation got the support of some conservatives:

"The legislation that Smith introduced Sept. 18 would abolish the diversity visa program — which awards 55,000 green cards a year to immigrants around the world via lottery —  and give the visas instead to foreign graduates of American universities with doctoral and master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, known as the STEM fields.

Abolishing the diversity visas was necessary to win support from conservatives, for whom increasing the net number of new immigrants is anathema.”

There is nothing wrong with immigration in general. The problem is our inflexible immigration policy that doesn't adapt to the economic times our country is in.

It's ridiculous that we don't already have a program that stumbles all over itself to hand over green cards to highly successful and educated immigrants, especially those that are in high skill, high pay fields that are struggling to find enough people to fill positions, and those who have money and want to come to our country to start a business. A program like this would create an economic ripple effect that would benefit the entire economy. No matter the state of the economy, this should always be the case.

It should also be the case that when the economy is contracting, the spigot of green cards for low skilled workers should contract, or even completely close. Labor markets follow the law of supply and demand just like any other. When the economy is so bad that there are many times more workers than jobs, all that bringing more people into that labor pool does is put downward pressure on their already stagnant wages, and keep unemployment higher than it would already be.

Of course we should make it a priority to keep nuclear families together by giving spouses and children of immigrants who earn their citizenship special treatment as far as getting them into the country legally and putting them on a track toward citizenship. This is also the case with children who are being adopted by anyone who already has citizenship. However, a person should be judged by who they are, not by who their sibling, cousin, aunts, uncles or children are.

The core mission of immigration should always be to fill a gap in what our society is lacking. World class doctors, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs - there is no such thing as having too many of them. Bringing people like that, who create economic multipliers that would help our economy grow faster than it would otherwise, will help our economy grow to the point where we no longer have more jobs than people.

This is where a certain subset of conservatives go wrong. The idea should never be to rigidly limit or open the immigration doors. The idea is to have immigration be focused on bringing people into the country that are needed by our economy. Keeping doors rigidly open to people our economy does not need makes things worse and hinders economic recovery. At the same time, keeping doors rigidly closed when our economy is booming and we need labor all across the skill spectrum just slows growth.

Giving those 55,000 get green cards that are currently given away through a lottery to targeted high skilled immigrants makes a great deal of sense, especially right now. But once the economy recovers the lottery should be added back, or even expanded, depending on the needs of our economy. This sort of flexibility may be too nuanced for the ideologues in Washington, but it's just the sort of thing that the country needs to start pulling itself out of the recession faster, and for our economy in the long run.


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Comments [5]

grey beard681 from nyc

This isn't 1898. The frontier is closed. We support population control measures abroad via UN programs, while the US population grows exponentially due to ever increasing levels of legal and illegal immigration? Any policy changes should drastically REDUCE levels of integration to preserve the standard of living in the US. This will bring the US in line with the rest of the developed world.

Feb. 17 2013 07:29 AM
crzzteen from Urbana Oh

continued from above ....

This country is already in an educational crisis for K-12. I see this on the television and newspaper every day; Schools trying to find dollars for costs they’re not equipped to handle. Like these extra language needs of the new immigrant student, they don’t speak the language, and we have to teach them. They just keep adding more costs into the already, shaky educational system. Schools are cutting costs everywhere while trying to properly educate our youth. Increasing the educational system with extra burdens has caused some crunching of jobs, curriculum, and loss of tax payers. Loyal Tax payers get fed up and move when the school district starts cutting popular curriculum, arts, sports, and music, and the best teachers. Education opportunities could be one of the major reasons why the immigrants arrived here. They want better for their families and also their children. Many states & school systems, and local county agencies are on the brink of being bankrupt & some cities have had to lay off necessary employees. It just seems like there should be a more defined entry process & procedures into getting a foot in the USA, it’s just too easy and not properly planned! A more restrictive policy should be put in put into motion. Maybe one we could vote on would even be better. I seem to have less and less say-so about what I want or what is best for this nation. Too many immigrants coming to America without proper training or on-the-job skills, expecting all the perks, with tax payers paying all the way of their new found freedom must end, freedom is not free. The increase supply of Immigrants is going to be the nail on the coffin if someone – somewhere, does not put the break on the revolving entry door.

Sep. 29 2012 02:01 AM
crzzteen from Urbana OH

. The current USA Federal government has incurred these increases in spending for the last decade with more hardship is on the horizon; for Education, Food Stamps, Housing, and Employment; all for the Immigrant segment of the population. The dreaded income tax revenue which is collected from our paychecks each week from hard working citizens is not, hardly enough to cover the ever growing national debt. Policy has been set & Immigration policy clearly needs some refinement. It’s very hard to sustaining this wonderful life, when all our hard earned tax dollars is being earmarked to ever increasing sector of immigrants. The newest have just arrived and have not contributed a dime to this economy.But they come here in search of a new free life, and there is a price to pay, but it’s not enough.From 2000 to 2010, the United States immigrant population has increased to approximately 40 million; which is a 28% increase over the level in 2000 (11.2 Million). At least 4 million children have been born since 2000 -2010 to legal and illegal aliens.If this trend continues to rise in the next ten years, I anticipate the 40 million will increase to 30%, by 2020 to 50 Million, and that could be a conservative figure. The Costs incurred for each illegal and legal Immigrant makes a significant contribution to the high unemployment rates, the increases of our property, state, and federal government tax rates for the Citizens born in the USA & creates an extra burden on the entire society: the State Budgets & Federal Government, the spending; per capita on each immigrant child for K-12 education alone is $56,000 per student.I recommend the entrance fee into this country raised significantly higher: a family of four can immigrate for roughly $2500. The cost to house, educate and provide medical for that family of four is hardly enough to cover what the outlay this country provides. I think the cost should be $10-15 thousand dollars per person. An adult immigrant should have at least a skill, with a certificate of training, a college degree, or years of documented work or enough of your own money to pay your own way. Americans are too generous. The people that really need help rarely get it, and those that show up seeking a new home, find a fountain of unending help. I recommend that the US Immigration set a definite limit of immigrants so that it doesn’t take jobs away from our sector of unemployed citizens. I want to give everyone the opportunity to live & work here, but to just take, take, take does not work.

Sep. 29 2012 01:59 AM

You can't advocate for labor protectionism on the low end and simultaneously destroy it on the high end. It's inherently unfair and harmful.

If low-wage American workers shouldn't be forced to compete with an influx of third world immigrants who put downward pressure on their wages and employment, why should highly skilled and highly educated Americans be subjected to even more of this than they already are?

Companies like Microsoft and Google have abused the visa system to import workers who will accept lower wages and have leveraged them against their American white-collar counterparts who expect high wages.

The idea that there is a 'shortage' of skilled labor in this country is a corporate lie. A lie you're repeating. There's a shortage of skilled labor that will *work for half the price Americans will.*

Many well-educated immigrants have had most or all of their higher education subsidized if not fully paid for by their more socialistic educational systems, whereas many American post-graduates go deep into debt to acquire degrees required for such jobs.

You want to put downward pressure on the value of those degrees, and those jobs by increasing the pool of immigrant workers who are at an automatic negotiating disadvantage when asking for raises and better contracts because their tenuous immigration status gives sponsor companies a great deal of leverage over their fate.

On top of this, American workers don't send their earnings overseas to families back home. They spend and invest here, helping to grow the domestic economy, rather than diffusing this capital into the wider global economy.

I agree that a more flexible, sophisticated, and dynamic immigration system is in order but you're being fundamentally dishonest and unfair in your advocacy for undercutting the earning power of educated and aspiring Americans.

We have the best university system in the world, and a large, diverse population. What we lack is the public investment to maximize the potential of our in situ talent. You want to address this problem by importing foreigners and their lower standard of living.

It's unfair, dishonest, and as culturally disruptive as a meat-packing conglomerate trucking in hundreds of impoverished Latin American immigrants to do the work of Americans at pennies on the dollar.

It also contributes to the 'brain drain' in the third world. Whereas these intelligent people should be working to increase the performance and professionalism of their trades and thus the overall quality of life in their home countries, they often leave them behind. This gains us nothing.

You have no data to back up your baseless assertion that foreign-born skilled labor increases the amount of economic growth any more than the full utilization of domestic talent would. This is simply scheme to transfer wealth from Americans to global corporations who have no true stake in American prosperity.

Sep. 21 2012 11:56 AM
fosterliberty from USA

Democrats want to continue to allow poor, uneducated, and dependent migrants to come to the United States because they see votes. Poor, uneducated, and dependent are not conducive to voting GOP. Whereas skilled migrants (often from emerging markets and developed nations) benefit the entire economy and add to cultural vibrancy of our diverse country, unskilled migrants drain the public purse, contribute to income inequality, and depress wages on the lower end (who are often minorities themselves and supporters of the Democratic Party). The Democratic position on this legislation is a disgrace.

Sep. 21 2012 03:09 AM

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