Written by: Anusha Saraf
Currently, for immigrants to immigrate legally to the United States, they have to jump through many hoops to go through an extensive, tedious bureaucratic process that spans upwards of a decade. This process is to weed out as many immigrants as possible and limit the amount that migrates to the United States. However, this system does not consider that today, highly skilled immigrants are held back because of the outdated immigration laws; this is even though research has proven that highly skilled immigrants give the United States many economic and social benefits.
This paper aims to explore the beliefs behind immigration policy and discuss possible improvements to the existing system to facilitate the immigration of highly skilled persons to the United States. First, we will discuss many of the common misconceptions about immigration and the truths behind these widespread beliefs. By doing this, we will gain an in-depth understanding of these misconceptions and the reasons behind them.
Then, we will examine the issues of the flawed immigration system. Lastly, this analysis will allow us to explore potential immigration policy reforms to allow highly skilled immigrants to immigrate more quickly to the United States.
Misconceptions of Immigration
There were attempts at reforming legal immigration, but many times these advances have been blocked by Congress; this is because many politicians, as well as ordinary Americans, have misunderstood skilled immigrants for years. For example, many Americans believe that if skilled immigrants migrate here, they will be replaced by them. The competition for jobs will increase due to the added amount of workers.
According to Saxenian, however, the exact opposite is true: skilled immigrants create space for more workers by starting new businesses and generating jobs. Saxenian also addresses whether immigration negatively impacts the “sending countries” or the native countries of the immigrants. She explains that immigration, rather than causing a “brain drain,” which is when large numbers of well-educated people immigrate to countries with better living conditions and opportunities and cause a loss to their own countries, it instead results in “brain circulation.”
Brain circulation is when foreign workers immigrate to the U.S., they create networks across the globe by establishing professional groups and associations to support co-workers of the same ethnicity, which ends up helping their native countries as well as the U.S.
Furthermore, the researchers Hainmueller and Hiscox analyzed the economic concerns that fuel anti-immigrant sentiments in native citizens reflected in American immigration policies. They performed a series of tests to understand the attitudes of Americans with low and high skill levels. They learned that low and high skilled citizens preferred high skilled immigrants, and are equally opposed to low skilled immigrants.
Issues in Existing Immigration Policy
Due to these misconceptions, there are many issues in the current immigration laws that are negatively impacting highly skilled immigrants who have much to offer to the United States. Still, due to the restrictions placed upon them are held back. On the other hand, the demand for international students is only growing. As a result, many universities are worried that these restrictions result in a lack of research, scholarships, innovation, and international students in general, which speaks to the importance of high-skilled immigrants in the United States.
Furthermore, the authors argue that among major developed countries and developing countries, the U.S. ranks towards the bottom in math and science achievement in middle schoolers, which results in less innovation in science and technology. International students have been filling this gap, but unless immigration policy is improved to make it easier for international students to immigrate to the United States, the country may soon lag in research and technology.
Ozden, Caglar, and Schiff’s argument ties in with that Bauer and Kunze, who discuss in their paper the demand for high-skilled immigrant workers in western countries. According to the authors, in America, this demand is due to a lack of native high skilled workers, which means that employers have to rely on foreign workers to contribute to their businesses and thus progress the economy.
The US, Canada, and Australia had to increase the quota for skilled immigrants, at the of this paper, to satisfy this demand. However, the need for skilled workers has since grown exponentially and requires a more comprehensive immigration reform supporting skilled foreigners that are sufficient enough to satisfy the demand.
Employees must do what their employers ask of them; if they lose their job, their entire immigration process will start over because while you are waiting for a green card, you cannot have a change of employment. To solve this issue, the government must create policies that prevent employers from mistreating foreign employees.
Another issue with the current immigration policy is that it favors immigrants who already have family members living in the United States. For example, a U.S. citizen can sponsor a green card for a family member. However, according to Borjas, this is an issue because economic welfare is most enhanced when immigrants are skilled and come from underrepresented countries in the current U.S. population since those countries are more likely to have highly skilled natives, which the American workforce would benefit from having.
Strategies for Reform
Many things can resolve the issues regarding the United States immigration policy to benefit highly skilled immigrants. But it’s not only changing in perception that needs to take place. There need to be substantial changes in policy that must occur as well. These improvements include creating laws to shorten the amount of time it takes to receive a permanent residency in the United States via a green card for immigrants with a certain level of education or work experience in desired industries.
The green card process is a lottery. As a result, many skilled, well-educated immigrants waste five, ten, fifteen, or more years waiting to get a green card, unable to use their full potential to achieve success for the United States. Shortening this process for highly skilled workers will benefit not only the immigrant but also the U.S.
Moreover, Borjas details a new plan based on a points system, where visa applicants receive points based on various characteristics such as education, age, and knowledge of the English language. The applicants who have the highest amount of points would receive precedence over those who have fewer issues. Since those with more points would tend to be those who are highly skilled professionals and as a result can contribute more to the country, not only would this program benefit skilled immigrants, it would boost the United States economy as well.
The proposed plan would replace the system where the only factor considered in the immigration process is whether or not the applicant has family ties to another resident of the United States. This process would also aid in bringing over immigrants who currently do not represent a large portion of the U.S. population, which, as was stated earlier, has been determined by Borjas to be beneficial to the United States.
To add to this idea, Guellec states that skilled migration, especially from Asia, to the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, is steadily rising. To accommodate these immigrants, she says, many changes in policy need to occur in the American government to facilitate the migration of skilled workers while simultaneously creating benefits for both the “sending” and “receiving” countries to maximize the economic and social services.
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