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December 21, 2006

The Perils of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy

One question that recently received heightened attention from lawmakers is whether or not immigrants should be admitted to the United States less on the basis of family ties and more on the basis of the skills they can contribute to the U.S. economy. Today, the most common way permanent immigrants enter the United States legally is through sponsorship by a family member already in the country. By contrast, nations such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom admit immigrants primarily for employment reasons, based on a point system. Points are assigned on the basis of educational level, professional skills, proficiency in the host country’s language, and other qualities that increase immigrants’ likelihood of integrating into the host country’s labor market.

In the latest report published by the Immigration Policy Center, Kara Murphy of the Policy and Global Affairs Division at the National Academy of Sciences investigates how a similar policy might work if implemented in the United States. She concludes that, although some of the practices associated with a point-based immigration system might benefit the U.S. economy, policymakers should be careful not to assume that such a system would be a panacea for the widespread dysfunction of U.S. immigration policies. She argues, for example, that a point system favoring high-skilled workers does little to fill the need for essential, low-skilled workers in this country, particularly in industries such as agriculture, construction, and services. This becomes increasingly true if current trends hold as expected and the pool of low-skilled native workers continues to shrink as a result of more native-born workers earning college degrees and an aging U.S. population.

Furthermore, Ms. Murphy contends that a point system would multiply the paperwork and bureaucracy required to process applications, worsening the already problematic backlogs that exist. At best, she says, the United States should look to the recent experiences Canada has had using a points-based immigration system, and implement such a system, if at all, only in conjunction with other immigration mechanisms, not to the exclusion of them.

The full report is available on the IPC's website; www.ailf.org/ipc

Posted by VisaLawyer at December 21, 2006 07:43 AM

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