A statement of principles was released at today’s Republican members retreat. Part of it was a brief outline of how the legal immigration system and guest worker visa systems should be reformed. It reads:
“For far too long, the United States has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country. Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America’s colleges and universities, particularly in high skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in U.S. industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren’t available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity to other countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy.
The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.”
One point these principles don’t mention is that a working legal immigration system is essential to resolving unauthorized immigration. The solution to America’s problem with unauthorized immigration does not lie with more restrictions, less lawful immigration, and more restrictions on the freedom of Americans. The solution lies with deregulating our immigration system, allowing more immigrants to come lawful on green cards and guest worker visas, and minimizing the government’s role in picking immigrant winners and losers. The market can do that far more effectively than a government agency, regardless of all the shiny new fences, border drones, and invasive government databases they command.
Some of these ideas are good starts and I would have welcomed them more enthusiastically last year, but better late than never. One big problem is that they are too negative on family-based immigration, 54 percent of whom work. Agriculture did not deserve special mention as only about 5 percent of unauthorized immigrants work in agriculture, while many more work in retail or manufacturing. Here are some moderate and broad libertarian suggestions for marginally improving the current immigration system: