Re-Thinking the Legal Immigration System

By Dan Cadman on January 3, 2017

Peter Spiliakos has written a piece for The Corner at National Review Online titled "Immigration Compromise".

His main argument can be found in his first sentence: "It is easy to see the immigration common ground between populist, conservative Sen.Tom Cotton and liberal journalist Noah Smith. Keep legal-immigration levels stable, but strongly prioritize high-skill immigration and English-proficiency."

Spiliakos was no doubt moved to comment after a recent op-ed by Sen. Cotton appeared in the New York Times.

He clearly grasps that Sen. Cotton is endorsing a shift away from chain migration based almost exclusively on familial relationships that go far beyond the nuclear family and encompass both parents and children of family members who migrate before them. The latter category is so broad that it includes unmarried and married adults (with their sundry spouses and children) in some categories, whose right to migrate is founded simply on the fact that they happen to be the progeny of those who came earlier — a dubious basis, given that they are adults. Such chain migration feeds on itself and has become massive; the existing policy, which enshrines such migration in law, little serves the national interest. In fact, it can and does have a deleterious effect on already severely strained social safety nets, not to mention public education, health care, and jobs.

But simply shifting away from chain migration to the various worker-visa categories is not the answer either — in no small measure because many of them are not dedicated to high-skilled jobs but instead serve as nothing more than a cheap and virtually unending supply of unskilled and marginally skilled labor for U.S. employers seeking to bolster their bottom lines.

Even many of the so-called "high-skilled" worker-visa categories have been subject to egregious abuse in recent years, as witnessed by companies such as Disney firing American workers and at the same time requiring them to train their foreign replacements, who are willing to work for substantially less money (much of which is sent home to their native lands in remittances, never to be seen in our economy again). News reports suggest that Carnival cruise lines has recently undertaken the same dirty-handed tactic.

Keeping legal immigration at existing levels (more than one million yearly) while dedicating more of the available visa slots to foreign workers could in fact be ruinous to unemployed and under-employed Americans teetering on the edge of an economy which has never truly recovered down at their rung of existence on the economic ladder.

Like Spiliakos, CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian also commented on Sen. Cotton's op-ed in a recent blog post. But unlike Spiliakos, Krikorian sees this as the main thrust of Sen. Cotton's remarks: "Sen. Cotton is sending the important message that the problem is mass immigration as policy, not immigrants as people." (Emphasis added.)

I think, or at least certainly hope, that this more accurately portrays the senator's position, and that it extends to a re-thinking of legal immigration in the category of worker visas as well as family chain migration. Both deserve an unbiased and critical examination at a time of change.