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Take Immigration Reform Past Talking Points

May 15, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

From Hillary Clinton’s Nevada speech in favor of immigration reform to Jeb Bush’s unwavering support for it, every presidential candidate in both parties is busy staking out a position on immigration.

The trouble is they’re using the same shopworn talking points they’ve always used. Rehashing the same arguments in front of a Congress that has repeatedly rejected them isn’t going to work. New reform ideas are needed.

Every immigration reform bill since 2002 has failed partly because they were essentially the same. They have all included the same three broad ideas: increase immigration enforcement, legalize some unauthorized immigrants, and liberalize legal immigration.

The first new idea is the merit-based green card category that was pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio in 2013 and promptly forgotten. That category would have issued up to 250,000 new green cards a year, half of them set aside for mid-skilled workers while the rest were for workers who possess skills like English or computer programming.

New ideas are out there. The question is whether Washington will take advantage of them.”

Allowing mid-skilled immigrants to even apply for green cards was so revolutionary and appealed to traditional American views of fairness in the immigration system that this reform was overlooked. It’s still a fresh idea that American voters, congressmen and senators haven’t seriously considered.

Another new idea is to reduce the role of the federal government by allowing states to create their own guest worker visa programs if they wish. American states have provided a democratic laboratory to test different policies like welfare reform, gun laws and tax policies — with some clear winners emerging. Why not apply that to immigration?

States could design migrant worker visas for any skill level for any occupation, entrepreneurs, investors, or those who want to buy real estate in blighted cities. Congress can then compare the outcomes among different states and choose the best policies based on experience. Or if the state system works even better than predicted, Congress could permanently hand guest workers over to the states.

America wouldn’t be stepping into the unknown here. Both Canada and Australia have their own provincial and state-based migration systems. According to a recent Cato Institute policy analysis, those systems are more responsive to local labor market demands than a one-size-fits-all federal program.

But state-based visas aren’t just a foreign idea. Since 2008, at least nine U.S. states have proposed to manage their own guest worker …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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