Our first key element to a long-term immigration reform solution was to focus on maximizing economic benefit. Our second key element is minimizing harm to the US economy and to American workers. The first solution to minimizing harm is to maintain a rigorous labor market testing process for most positions, especially those requiring bachelor’s degrees or less, to ensure that capable American workers get first preference for positions.
The second part of the solution is to consider significant modifications to family based Green Cards to focus solely on spouses and children of US citizens and permanent residents. By eliminating parent and sibling preferences for Green Cards, Congress will reduce strain on entitlement programs since many or most enter the US as permanent residents in their retirement years after putting zero resources into US tax rolls or Medicare and Social Security trust funds. Moreover, in doing what is best for the US economy, Congress would put the US in line with other developed countries. No other countries provide an immigrant with the expectation of being able to turn around and sponsor parents and siblings for Green Cards. Parents and siblings should have the opportunity to visit the US, but Congress should explore whether or not it makes sense to allow them to become Green Card holders solely based on blood and not on skills or education.
Next, Congress needs to ensure that foreign workers do not enter the US to compete for jobs where there are already more than adequate numbers of US workers. Since Congress is ill-equipped to make determinations of US worker shortage areas based on objective criteria, the time has come for Congress to create an independent panel of experts whose job it will be to forecast sectors where numbers of US workers fall short and recommend how many foreign workers in that position are needed for the US economy. These experts come from government agencies, business, worker groups, and other key constituencies.
Finally, Congress will need to retain at least some limited temporary worker programs for unskilled workers. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, there will likely never be a time when the US will have sufficient workers willing to perform all the so-called “dirty jobs” at the lowest rung of the job ladder that keep the American economy working. Workers at the low end of the economic ladder strive to move up that ladder—few are content to remain where they are—and this creates a continuous vacuum of unfilled unskilled jobs.