Dr. Michael Teitelbaum and Dr. Ray Marshall discussed the issues involved within the immigration reform debate calling it a stalemate by design and toxic issue.
Dr. Marshall, former Secretary of Labor, first became involved in immigration during President Jimmy Carter’s administration by default of pointing out that the issue was missing from the presidential strategy. He said at the time immigration was not even considered an issue, however with changing external environment and changes in national demographics, global geopolitics he believes the United States can only begin to address the issue honestly by creating a comprehensive reform policy that allows pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants and bring them out of the shadows.
“The longer we wait, the harder it will be,” he said. Comparing the U.S. immigration to Canada, UK, and Australia, Dr. Mashall highlighted the main shift other countries consciously took to move from family-based sponsorships to solely talent and employment based immigration.
In Canada, the point system also addresses values, language proficiency, and the ability to embrace Canadian lifestyles as part of their screening. “I don’t think any country has perfected the process but they are doing a better job.” He said these countries don’t just import workers, but residents who merge in the fabric of society as productive members and do not create the imbalance of resentment that often boils to the surface such in the case of France’s anti-immigrant stance. He said the argument of granting amnesty for those who transgressed against the law is weak, “It it was a good law the argument would be valid, but if it’s unenforceable then it’s a terrible argument.”
Dr. Teitelbaum said the only fact all sides of the policy can agree on is that the system is broken, “It is not a right versus left issue; you can determine what a person’s stance on immigration is based on their party.”
He said the gridlock that is created in addressing the issue stems from the interest groups who have not yet chosen where to nudge Congress; “So all they can do is prevent the other from getting what they want.”
He said the figures that companies list as lacking in skilled workers should be scrutinized with the unemployment rate. “It is not that there are no skilled people, but the companies don’t want to pay the suggested prevailing wage for those skills,” he said. Dr. Teitlebaum said the H1- B work authorization visas that allow foreign workers employment in the U.S. are beneficial for companies because they acquire a captive worker who is ineligible to transfer to a better job if one is presented, whereas the domestic worker can easily leave for a better option. “No one can objectively find a shortage; all indicators are flat.”
Dr. Teitelbaum said the U.S. grants two-thirds of its citizenships based on family ties, while only 15 percent of the visa’s granted are afforded to those seeking employment. “Family versus employment is a false distinction because people who come to work here have families,” said Dr. Marshall; he argues the lack of a strategic plan on what the immigration policy should mean for the country’s economic growth is what makes it difficult to create a viable solution.