Immigration Reform Misses the Mark

Posted on April 15, 2013 by


The ”gang of eight” (Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet, and Flake) is expected to release the long awaited bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow, April 16. While the legislation will go through Congress’s meat grinder of debate and approval, the four pillars of the proposal do provide another rung in the ladder of debate on immigration reform. According to CBS News “The bill, in broad strokes, would tighten border security, modernize the visa system, and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers. It would also extend a path to citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America.”

The “path to citizenship” is the centerpiece of the proposal. This proposed path is anything but direct. It “is contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays”[1] – two of the other pillars in the plan. “Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.”[2] The path is not direct, but rather circuitous and difficult.

One of the contingencies of the path to citizenship is border security. The Border Patrol will be given “the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.”[3] The “legislation will increase the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment, improve radio interoperability and increase the number of agents at and between ports of entry.”[4]

While the Associated Press has reported the number of H1-B visas could go from the current 65,000 to 150,000, the thrust of the bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform is misguided and misplaced. Rather than address the roots of the current immigration mess, the proposal focuses on keeping people out, on limiting the number of immigrants to the United States to “protect” our current labor force.

The main issue with our current immigration problem is that we make it very difficult for people to come to the United States. So they sneak in illegally and stay because it is so difficult and costly to “break in”. The illegal immigrants then form “informal” communities on the outskirts of our formal economy and unable to fully contribute both in terms of productivity, consumption and tax revenue. The current illegal aliens living in the United States must be fully integrated into our formal economy and become fully participating. They can’t be forced to walk some ten year path to the promised land.

The bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform does “award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university.”[5] This is the type of policy change that should be implemented for all types of labor, not only the highly educated. Current immigration law is built around protecting United States’ workers from foreign competition. This proposal does not change the focus of United States’ immigration law. The law is all about suppressing competition and stopping market adjustments. Simply to relax the current caps on various types of visas would do more to solve the current immigration mess than the Bipartisan Framework For Comprehensive Immigration Reform.