Mo’ Skills, Less Diversity

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Liberals currently dominate the immigration reform debate and many conservative groups have fallen to the strategy of stalling the passage of any immigration bill. This is a doomed strategy as it simply encourages the Obama administration to extend its executive powers to enact de facto amnesty if it does not believe it can bargain with us. It also costs us voters who buy into the myth that conservatives are anti-migrant. A more effective strategy would be for us to take charge by proposing our own reforms to the immigration system.

Take for example the antiquated diversity lottery visa. Applicants for the visa are entered into a literally lottery wherein the winners get the ability to migrate to the United States. The diversity lottery visa nominally asks that migrants have some schooling and technical skills in order to apply for it, but in practice it allows nearly anyone to come so long as they win the lottery. This leads to doctors being denied admittance in favor of unskilled laborers. The lottery visa also discriminates against those who have skills the United States could use but who were born in places such as India. Regardless of their skills Indians and others who are born in countries that already have a large migrant population in the US are prohibited from even applying for the diversity lottery visa. The diversity lottery visa ultimately attempts to ‘diversify’ the United States at the expense of depriving them access to skilled migrants.

No person should be judged by their birth place or lineage. One should be defined by their own actions alone. Our immigrations system should do the same by electing who can immigrate by judging them on their personal accomplishments. A point based system, the likes of which has already been instituted successfully in Australia, would do much to accomplish this goal. Below is a table showing how such a point based system could work.
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*A maximum of 20 points could be achieved under this provision.

Potential migrants would earn points based on their knowledge of English, their work experience, their education level, and other noteworthy accomplishments such as building a business. Additional points could also be given to those who have previously studied in the United States. This serves a dual purpose of keeping college graduates in the United States and discouraging illegal immigration. Forty percent of illegal immigrants entered legally through a student or tourist visa and then overstayed. If college graduates had a viable method to legally migrate they would be discouraged from becoming illegal immigrants. After meeting a certain threshold migrants would be able to submit their application and those with the most points would be accepted.

A point-based visa is not only superior to the diversity lottery visa, but similar proposals. The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act that has been previously introduced in Congress gives a bias in favor of those migrants with education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. What this fails to take into account is that the United States economy requires more than a certain type of labor to prosper. Mid and low skilled migrants are of value and help grow the economy in their own way. The value of a single high skilled migrant might be higher than his mid or low skilled counterparts, but this should not be confused to mean that high skilled migrants as a class are more valuable than mid and low skilled migrants. Doctors, engineers, farmers, and plumbers are all needed for an economy to function.

In review, it is time that conservatives take the initiative in the immigration reform debate by proactively engaging in how to best change our current policies to best suit the needs of the American people. One such reform that we could promote is the replacement of the diversity lottery visa with a point based visa as outlined above.

Guest Post By: Michelangelo Landgrave
Michelangelo is a native of Los Angeles. He is currently an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach. He writes on transportation, immigration and urban issues from a free market perspective.

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