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.