Small Nations Show U.S. How Immigration Policies Should Work

By David North on March 2, 2012

All nations, great and small, have immigration policies. Lately it appears that some of the smaller ones could give some lessons to the big one we live in.

The Bahamas, for instance, is, by Caribbean standards, rather prosperous; 50 years ago its unemployed came to the United States to help with the Virginia/West Virginia apple harvest, but now it is receiving temporary foreign workers to do farm and other low-paid work.

But that little nation has its priorities right and has reduced by 2,299 the number of alien work permits issued in 2011 compared to 2010.

The country's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration, Brent Symonette, told the nation's parliament recently that it made the reduction from 9,330 in the previous year to 7,091 last year; a cut of almost 25 percent.

"We are not issuing permits to foreigners for jobs Bahamians can do. The Department has tightened its level of scrutiny on work permit applications," he said, according to an article in The Tribune, one of the nation’s leading dailies.

Meanwhile, another small island nation (and another former British colony), New Zealand, is showing how a nation should handle the troublesome problem of inadequate, private, for-profit educational institutions created to participate in what the New Zealand Herald, the nation's largest newspaper, calls "the $2.3 billion-a-year international student market."

Translating from Kiwi money, that’s about $1.9 billion in U.S. dollars, a substantial chunk of change for a nation with a population of about 4.4 million, a country where I spent a delightful year as a Fulbright Scholar, a long time ago.

Bear in mind that America, too, has a number of comparable institutions, some little more than visa mills. About once a year — note that frequency — ICE will actually shut one down, as it did with an outfit calling itself "Tri-Valley University" in Central California.

In contrast to that single intervention — in a nation with 72 times as many people as New Zealand — the New Zealand Qualifications Authority closed down "16 private training establishments (PTEs) in the last two years," according to the Herald.

This New Zealand agency is far more rigorous than our ICE, and it checks on such matters as graduation rates, attendance rates, marking systems, and in at least one case "excessive spells of plagiarism", both to protect the foreign students and to prevent visa abuse.

In the United States, accreditation often is handled by membership associations in the for-profit sector, which tend to be rather tolerant. According to the highly reputable Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of Northern Virginia, an institution raided by ICE last year, but not closed by them, was accredited by a system whose chairman owned and operated an auto repair shop, and used broken English on his telephone answering system.

Maybe ICE and the Department of Education should contract out its enforcement efforts in this area to the New Zealand government.