Commentary | Immigration

Another step towards immigration reform

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An important step toward immigration reform was taken yesterday when Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey introduced new legislation to comprehensively reform America’s immigration system. The legislation offers solutions to many of the vexing problems inherent in the system.

We would like to call attention to a specific proposal in the bill – one that creates a new independent federal agency: the Standing Commission on Immigration, Labor Markets, and the National Interest.  If enacted, the Commission’s members would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Commissioners and the Commission’s professional staff would include economists, demographers, statisticians, and immigration experts. Their task would be to evaluate the U.S. labor market and economic conditions, and annually recommend to Congress the levels of permanent and temporary immigrant labor that would allow the U.S. economy to continue expanding while avoiding an oversupply of labor and the downward pressure on wages that could result.

In the past, Congress has set permanent and temporary immigration levels without considering unemployment levels or examining the needs of specific sectors in the economy. To remedy this, the Commission’s work would offer Congress an informed perspective, backed by research and hard data, on how much high, middle and low-skilled immigration the economy needs, and where. This will lead to more broadly shared prosperity in the United States, for businesses and their employees, and both immigrant and native-born workers.

The Economic Policy Institute, Migration Policy Institute, the united U.S. labor movement and a number of bipartisan groups have called for the creation of a commission on employment-based migration. As a result, there is growing support for such an entity. Its creation is long overdue.

In less than a year, members in both houses of Congress have introduced legislation to reform the immigration system: in December, 2009, Rep. Solomon Ortiz introduced HR 4321, the “CIR ASAP” bill – a thoughtful proposal to comprehensively overhaul the national framework for immigration. EPI has expressed strong support for this legislation – which also includes a Commission, similar to the one proposed by Senator Menendez.   President Obama, moreover, supports a comprehensive solution for immigration.  Thus, the elements are now in place for Congress to legislate a sensible reform that ensures that the national interest governs our immigration policy.


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See more work by Daniel Costa and Ross Eisenbrey