Edited by Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic
Chapter 24: The case of the missing skilled immigrants in the USA
It is widely believed that importing highly skilled workers would benefit the American economy, but despite its position as one of the most desirable immigration destinations in the world, the USA admits far more unskilled than skilled migrants, legally and illegally, as a consequence of its immigration policies. One of the most widely touted devices for increasing the share of skilled migrants admitted is some variety of a points system. The countries closest to the USA in terms of economy, culture and politics – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK – have all adopted a points system in recent years. The USA has not. In this chapter, I will argue that immigration strategies aimed at attracting high-skilled migrants to the USA have not gained footing in the public debate because of the manner in which all immigration policy options, the points system included, have been forced into comprehensive reform packages rather than considered as stand-alone proposals. The reform proposals introduced in Congress over the last decade have included measures to improve enforcement at the border as well as steps to deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the USA. Those favoring stronger enforcement could not support proposals to create a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for the vast majority of the undocumented because many viewed this action as a thinly disguised amnesty.
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