A few days ago, the Migration Policy Institute released a summary analysis of Jared’s proposed immigration reform. While the plan itself has not yet been released, and may never be, it sounds like Jared is pushing for a shift from a family-based system to a point-based system used by many other rich countries like Canada and Australia. The employment-focused system would neither reduce the overall numbers of immigrants nor threaten vulnerable union jobs in rust-belt states.
The plan has some pretty obvious negatives. The focus on “high-skill” workers would favor wealthy immigrants over poor ones. By prioritizing college graduates, it would probably worsen the brain-drain from poor countries to rich countries. And it would eliminate the visa lottery, which brings in a diversity of people from countries who usually don’t immigrate to the US. Otherwise, the proposal is actually pretty…modest and reasonable.
It’s important to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the switch from a family points-based system to a points-based system. There is no morally defensible reason, outside of humanitarian concerns, why one immigrant should be granted a visa while another is denied a visa. Unfortunately, governments will always limit visas, creating a system by which some people get a visa at the expense of others. Immigration systems are, by their very nature, arbitrary and unfair. As long as their are borders between rich countries and poor countries, between stable countries and war-torn ones, every immigration system will always be centered on injustice.
If this is a serious proposal at immigration reform, Democrats and pro-immigrant groups should at least consider it. The plan could be the grounds for a genuine deal, particularly if it added protections for Dreamers and TPS holders, increased the refugee resettlement quota, gave more money for immigration judges, restructured ICE, closed private detention facilities and the decriminalized border crossings. These are a few of the things I would bargain for.
The chance at genuine, bipartisan immigration reform that can pass Congress only comes once every ten years or so. The most likely outcome of this plan is that it will end up on in the dustbin of history, where so many attempts at immigration reform have ended. Currently, the US government is unable to pass an infrastructure bill, something that almost every single person in the US wants. But just because something seems impossible doesn’t mean that it actually is impossible. As Donald Rumsfeld once said, you reform immigration with the government you have, not the government you might want or wish to have at a later time. And it’s important not to let dislike of Trump stand in the way of a chance to actually get something done for immigrants.