During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump brought attention to his forthcoming immigration plan by offering a potential pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
While conservatives have been rightfully angered by the president’s plan for amnesty, the door for other real reforms to our legal immigration system is now open.
If conservatives truly want to bring the U.S. immigration system into the 21st century, the legal immigration system will have change in three main ways.
1. Chain migration must end.
While reunifying immediate family members (spouses and children) should remain a priority of the immigration system, our current system allows single immigrant to secure green cards for his or her parents and siblings, making it possible for an extensive web of external family members to relocate to the U.S.
Family-based immigration is not concerned with what an immigrant can contribute to the U.S. economy, nor with the fiscal costs of bringing in less-educated immigrants.
Moreover, the status quo ignores potential immigrants who have skills, education, and capital to invest in the U.S.
In fact, the U.S. is largely alone in its prioritization of family reunification. In 2016, 68 percent of American green cards were issued to immigrant family members. In Canada and Australia, these percentages were only 26 and 32.5 percent, respectively.
2. Adopt an employment-based immigration system.
Step number one would result in fewer green cards for family-based immigrants. This number should then be added to employment-based green cards.
By using the market to determine those who will provide the most benefits to the American economy, an employment-based system is clearly in the best interest of the U.S.
The employment-based category should also make use of a limited points system if the demand for employment-based green cards is higher than the supply.
Points would be awarded for economically beneficial traits, by first prioritizing the compensation being offered by a U.S. company and then providing some points for factors like current income, wealth, age, and education level.
In order to ensure that green card recipients are employed and significantly contributing to the economy, their legal permanent residence statuses would be conditional for their first several years. Only those who fulfill their employment obligations would be allowed to remain in the U.S. during this time.
3. Get rid of the diversity visa program and the 7 percent per-country cap.
The diversity visa program prioritizes an applicant’s national origin over his or her merit or potential contribution to the U.S. economy. The per-country cap- which limits how many immigrants can come from a given country every year- also ranks nationality over economic value or individual merit, discriminating against applicants from high immigrant-sending countries like China, Mexico, and India.
Both of these practices are discriminatory and should be ended.
The current legal immigration system is decades old, and its age is showing. Making the above reforms would bring the U.S. system up to date. It would strengthen the U.S. economy and improve U.S. public finances by allowing more high-achieving individuals from around the world greater opportunities to migrate to the U.S.
Rather than focus on amnesty, Congress should focus on these immigration reforms that would benefit all Americans.