Time to Enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Reform will improve security, enhance the economy, and uphold American ideals

May 16, 2007

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WASHINGTON — As Congress gears up for two weeks of intense debate on immigration reform, passing an effective reform bill remains a possibility.  In the Free Trade Bulletin “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Finally Getting It Right,” Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies, provides a pragmatic solution to the United States’ failed immigration policy.

America’s immigration problem has two causes: an increased demand for low-skilled, mainly service sector jobs, and a decreasing supply of native-born Americans willing to take these jobs. As the nation’s economy expands, increasing numbers of low-skilled workers are required to support and facilitate the expansion of middle-class jobs — a void most often filled by immigrants.

“Despite these powerful economic and demographic realities, our immigration system contains no legal channel for lower-skilled foreign-born workers to enter the country legally to fill the jobs that an insufficient number of Americans want,” Griswold points out.

The government’s approach of “enforcement only,” has yielded a number of unfortunate consequences, failing to address immigration’s underlying causes. Griswold proposes instituting a temporary worker program to fill the labor gap, enabling workers to enter the country legally. “If foreign-born workers are allowed to enter the country through a safe, orderly, and legal path, the number choosing to enter illegally will drop sharply,” he writes.

Griswold’s plan includes issuing an adequate number of temporary visas to temporary workers, providing sufficient mobility between jobs and freedom from undue regulation. Additionally, he advocates offering a workable path to legal status for illegal immigrants already working in the U.S..

“Comprehensive immigration reform would provide a predictable, legal, and modestly growing labor force to provide a wider and more affordable array of goods and services for American households,” Griswold concludes, “and reaffirm our ideals as a nation that has traditionally welcomed immigrants who come here to work hard and build better lives for themselves and their families.”

Free Trade Bulletin no. 29: http://www.freetrade.org/pubs/FTBs/FTB-029.html