Saturday, May 19, 2007

Immigration: A One Way Valve?

Both Conservatives and Liberal pundits seem extremely unhappy with the current rounds of talks on immigration. The existence of unhappy pundits is sometimes a sign that legislation is going in the right direction. My primary concern in any legislation is simply that the people who are going through legal channels don't get pushed aside by those taking the underground route. Any reform that weighs the needs of the people in legal channels over those set on cheating the system is a success.

I think that the idea of forcing people to exit and re-enter is a waste of precious energy. You could accomplish the same thing with a symbolic exit and re-entry. Rather than wasting energy on plane flights, immigrants could go to the Taco Bell, err., I mean, to the local courthouse and have a symbolic entry to to US.

An angle that I have really not heard a lot of talk about is the migration needs of existing Americans. It seems to me that immigration liberalization in the United States should be discussed in a larger context of free migration of labor throughout the world. Our increasing the number of work permits and immigration slots should be made with a plea that other nations increase opportunities for Americans.

Unfortunately, the way our dysfunctional Congress goes about reform has the potential of creating a one way valve. Despite the faults of the American immigration law, our nation's laws are substantially more liberal than most other nations.

I don't know if we are creating a one way valve. People really don't notice such things when the flow of migration is toward the US.

The ideal of liberal immigration is the free migration of labor. If we were wise we would be using the current liberalization of American immigration laws to force greater liberalization of emigration throughout the world.

My personal experience: After college, I wanted to spend a year or two abroad to expand horizons and learn languages. I applied for a variety of work permits. Every permit was rejected. My friends who wanted to do the international thing had the same experience.

Americans aren't welcome abroad.

If the current immigration reform does not take into account the opportunities of Americans abroad, we will find that our taking on another 12 million people decreases the opportunities for individual Americans have to work abroad.

1 comment:

Charles D said...

Yes, other nations make it quite difficult to obtain a work permit. They truly enforce their laws against employers hiring undocumented workers and they have the government resources and regulatory authority to find and punish the employers in violation.

In the US we are much more selective in our enforcement. Because we want cheap labor for agriculture and service jobs, the government turns a blind eye to those violations. When the potential immigrant is a professional worker, the restrictions are much tighter.

I see little point in the US "demanding" anything of any other nations at this point. We are in no position, thanks to the Bush-Cheney administration, to command the respect and cooperation of other nations.

I have a post commenting on the EU's new immigration reform policy. It differs very greatly from those proposed for the US.