Immigration Reform and a Merit-Based System

I recently wrote a review of an article from The Washington Post on Immigration Reform for my graduate course in Employment Law. The content of this review is below, and I welcome any comments on this controversial issue.

Immigration reform has been a turbulent issue for quite some time, and it has been the cornerstone of Trump’s agenda during the election and as a vital component of his initial strategies as President. Trump won the election primarily by appealing to the working and middle classes. This population has been adversely impacted by immigrants who compete against American laborers for lower-paying, unskilled jobs. Trump’s historic upset against Hillary Clinton was due, in part, to his messages of bringing jobs back to America, protecting the nation against immigrants who may take away American jobs at home as well as making it more difficult for companies to outsource. While I am not a fan of the Trump administration, or the discriminatory measures that he has initiated such as the Travel Ban on the Muslim population, I do, agree, that we need to protect the American middle class from further erosion. Job losses, outsourcing, factory-closings, and wage pressure have all contributed to a deleterious impact on the working and middle classes. While I disagree with his tactics, the idea of protecting the American landscape and American workers is a popular one.

A recent article within The Washington Post by  David Nakamura (2017) touches on this controversial issue by describing Trump’s proposed policy of limiting immigration to individuals with higher education vs. those who enter the country and compete against American laborers for lower paying positions. A “merit-based” approach would essentially reshape our immigration policy to curtail the massive influx of unskilled labor. At issue is the family unification approach where these individuals initially enter the country and then later bring their families as well, contributing to the overage of unskilled labor that unfairly competes with American laborers. Trump’s view is that a merit-based system would curtail entry to the country for those immigrants who are unable to make a living for themselves. This definition is somewhat vague and leads to multiple considerations and guesses as to the actual scope of such reform. In addition, it is unlikely that Trump will succeed with his plans for immigration reform since he has alienated much of America with the discriminatory and unconstitutional travel ban as well as heated, racist, and bigoted remarks that have spawned movements across the nation to oppose Trump’s orders and legislation. His policies and orders have contributed to intolerance and bigotry and have resulted in a world-wide rebuke of his Presidency and administration. It would be wise for his administration to initiate policies that make sense for America but while also upholding our most basic, constitutional freedoms and human rights. We want the American middle class to thrive and to limit the ability for foreign nationals to take away jobs from our citizens, but we also want an inclusive and fair America, the foundation of which forms the most basic values we uphold and revere within our society.

Pro-immigration groups and many grassroots organizations within the country view restrictive immigration measures as counter to our policies of diversity and inclusion and seem to indicate the vast potential for disparate impact upon thousands and thousands of foreign nationals. While we want to take care of the American worker, we must also understand that we are a nation made up of immigrants, and severe restrictive efforts to limit migration, while they may appear neutral, are forms of deeply-rooted prejudice, fear and discrimination that can hurt our country and economy over the long term. We are a country that has welcome, open arms, and we must remember not to alienate ourselves from the rest of the world. Those American workers who are competing with immigrants for lower paying unskilled labor would be better served if they were encouraged to obtain advanced education or learn skilled trades so they can live and work more comfortably within the middle class, vs. competing at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for jobs that are menial and dead-end.

Trump’s restrictive immigration stance is highly indicative of a strategy reflective of the 1920’s negative response to waves of immigrants that entered the country during that time, and immigration patterns did not increase until the “family-oriented” system returned in 1965.

So, how the Trump Administration’s stance on immigration will work is still questionable. While most of America embraces an inclusive, diverse nation, we also must look at the realities of the labor market, to make certain that there are enough jobs for our citizens while also welcoming the diverse talents of our immigrant community. Where the administration’s policy seems to be strongest is in attracting highly educated and skilled workers to help improve and contribute to the economy while not displacing American workers within the working and middle classes. Many high-tech companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, support inclusive immigration policies to attract qualified, diverse candidates. Shutting the door to these individuals seems entirely unjust and un-American. At the same time, we must make certain that we are building up our working and middle classes so that wage pressures, outsourcing and displacement do not affect this vital sector of our economy and nation. The best of both worlds would include embracing diverse immigrant populations that positively contribute to our economy and that do not threaten our labor workforce with displacement. This will take strategic implementation of immigration reform and should never rely upon scare tactics, division, racism, disparate impact, or unconstitutional practices.

Nakamura, D. (2017, March 6). It’s not just deportations and the border: Trump seeks to remake the immigration system. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/a4231b52-fec5-11e6-8ebe-6e…

Advertisements