U S Immigration Policy Ignores Economic Reality

U S Immigration Policy Ignores Economic Reality

The root of​ the​ current crisis of​ undocumented immigration is​ a​ fundamental disconnect between today's economic and​ labor market realities and​ an​ outdated system of​ legal immigration.

Undocumented immigration is​ driven in​ large part by a​ U.S. labor market that is​ creating a​ higher demand for​ less-skilled workers than is​ being met by the​ native-born labor force or​ by the​ current legal limits on immigration.

As the​ past decade and​ a​ half of​ failed federal border-enforcement efforts make clear, immigration policies that ignore these larger economic forces merely drive migration underground rather than effectively regulate it.

In short, there is​ an​ unsustainable contradiction between U.S. economic and​ immigration policy, with economics winning. the​ problem is​ a​ broken immigration system that sends the​ dual messages "Keep Out" and​ "Help Wanted" to​ foreign workers.

The U.S. economy continues to​ create large numbers of​ less-skilled jobs even as​ native-born workers grow older and​ better educated and​ are increasingly unavailable to​ fill such jobs.

Yet the​ federal government continues to​ impose outdated numerical caps and​ other restrictions on immigration that bear little relationship to​ the​ economic realities of​ our time.

As a​ result, enforcement resources are devoted in​ large part to​ trying to​ stem the​ labor migration the​ U.S. economy attracts and​ which is​ an​ outcome of​ globalization. Despite the​ critical role immigrants play in​ filling less-skilled jobs, America offers few opportunities under the​ current immigration system for​ them to​ come to​ the​ U.S. legally.

There is​ a​ similar bottleneck for​ low-skilled workers who seek temporary, employment-based visas. of​ the​ 16 different types of​ temporary immigrant visas available for​ employment and​ training in​ the​ United States, only two -; H2A and​ H2B -; are available to​ workers with little or​ no formal training. Moreover, the​ total number of​ H2B visas that can be awarded in​ a​ year is​ capped at​ 66,000.

Only a​ truly comprehensive approach will work, one that includes a​ process by which undocumented immigrants already living and​ working in​ the​ United States can apply for​ legal status, as​ well as​ the​ creation of​ a​ temporary worker program with stringent protections for​ both temporary workers themselves and​ native-born workers.

Lawmakers must tackle the​ issue of​ undocumented immigration with less rhetoric and​ more realism. Continuing the​ status quo by trying to​ enforce immigration policies that are at​ war with the​ U.S. and​ global economies will do nothing to​ address the​ underlying problem. Nor is​ it​ feasible to​ wall off the​ United States from the​ rest of​ the​ world.

The most practical option is​ to​ bring U.S. immigration policy in​ line with the​ realities of​ the​ U.S. labor market and​ an​ increasingly transnational economy.

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