Failed Immigration Policy and U.S. Economic Recession

Published on    30 June 2014     Hits: 731

There are several myths or simplified beliefs about immigration.  Among  those, one prevalent belief is that immigration policy only affects  immigrants and a small group of family members and workers.  Wrong!   Immigration policy affects the entire nation’s future and beyond.   Second, immigration is the Democrat Party’s pet issue to gain more votes  from the newly landed.  Well, it isn’t and it shouldn’t be if we are  going to have a smart immigration policy.

In fact, many economic experts have pointed out failed immigration  policies as one of the culpable parties that caused the current U.S.  economic recession.  Alan Greenspan himself spoke of immigration policy  as central to the U.S. economic recovery and planning.

Traditionally, immigration policy has been discussed from the extreme  points of view.  Pro-immigrants have argued for family unity and  refugees.  Seeing immigration policy as an international form of social  work, they advocated the rights of undocumented children, the basic  needs of the poor aliens, and the displaced and oppressed in other parts  of the world. To keep the purity of such principles, they have ignored  employment-based immigration.  As a result, immigration policies have  developed as patchwork, and not as a part of the big picture, the future  of America.  On the other hand, anti-immigrant forces came from the  protectionists, who argued that cheap immigrant workers were lowering  the wages of the average American worker, taking jobs away from  born-Americans, and were taking advantage of the wonderful social net of  the American society.  Without a wise and constructive reasoned voice,  American employment-based immigration policies have developed to become a  complex web of paradox, helping neither the American companies nor the  workers. 

Obviously, the U.S., the richest and most powerful nation in the world  of the current times, ought to continue and even expand its willingness  to help with the problems in the world. Taking in refugees and sending  aids in a non-intrusive way is a right thing to do.  However, it should  be remembered that all of us depend on the robust economic engine of  this powerful nation.  We cannot be effective helpers without the  economy supporting it.  Good will and aid will not last disconnected  from the economic reality.  In this regard, the pro-immigrants need to  also think about how immigration policies should be formulated to create  a win-win situation for all.  Leaning on one extreme is not  constructive; it empowers the anti-immigrant movements.  

Keeping out competition never works out to protect one’s interest, let alone the nation’s.
In the past decade, obtaining H-1B visa or green card has become so  arduous that many foreign workers ran out of time and left for their  home country.  Are the U.S. workers better off now?  Some of the  returned workers began to apply what they learned in their home country,  began to use their network and establish business.  It has become  cheaper for many companies to have their manufacturing and support  service done in another country.  In order to survive the recession,  companies resorted to the cost-saving measure, and more jobs were given  away to foreigners in foreign land, who do not even pay taxes to the  U.S.  Our interests are protected when jobs are created, and not when  competent foreign workers are kept offshore.

Consider another problem.  The more developed a nation is, it must  consider immigration policies from a larger perspective and incorporate  them in the nation planning in order to prepare for the future of a  nation.  With increasing senior population and decreasing  working/consumer population, Americans as in other developed nations  must work longer and harder to provide for the entire nation.  With  senior citizens being a powerful block of vote, no politicians will  advocate changing the law to diminish their social security.  In this  respect, some economists are looking at Japan as a horrifying example of  endless recession caused by decreasing working/spending population.   Although Japanese economy has many reasons why it suffers an economic  recession, one of the most prevailing causes is now studied to be the  small working population.  This phenomenon is captured in the new term,  “parasite singles”.  The Japanese twenties and thirties, who used to be  the largest spenders and who now are not getting married, purchasing the  house, nor buying new furniture or electronic goods.  

Yes, we are suffering from high unemployment rate.  However, pointing at  foreign workers is simply misguided.  Competition and wage adjustment  do not get started because of import of cheap foreign workers.  If we  create a protective measure domestically, it will surely be offset  internationally.  When US companies compete poorly abroad, who will be  affected?  We, the American workers and their families.  In order to  strengthen the US economy on which we all depend, the focus of US  immigration policy should be to attract and retain essential workers for  a wide variety of jobs in both the old and new economies.  Hopefully,  what we have learned through our mistakes is that we are not  disconnected from the rest of the world.  In the closely related global  environment, nothing can stop competition.  Zealous protectionism in the  name of protecting domestic workers will not make America any  stronger.  A smart nation should stop viewing immigration in a sinister  light.  Human mobility is a key factor in international economic growth  and wealth distribution, and wise employment-based immigration policy  should be central to the foreign policy and future-planning.
Instead of imposing expensive, lengthy, and unrealistic labor  certification process in the name of protecting the U.S. market, why not  create a merit-based or need-based point system that will test the  markets’ need and the alien’s ability to ensure possibility of natural  success?
Instead of tying a foreign worker with a specific employer and create a  potentially abusive situation, why not consider making the system  alien-based so that foreign-born workers have the mobility to protect  their interests, and those of similarly-situated Americans?

I believe immigration is an untapped economic asset, which has been made  a political problem by an obtuse system.  To ensure our future and the  nation’s future, immigration policies need to be reexamined and planned  to enhance productivity, to create jobs, and sustain development.   

Mario Guevara-Martinez