Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Immigration Issues

America has always been a nation built on immigration. We have not always been welcome to immigrants (think 1920's and 30's), but we are at a point now where we seem to be opening our arms just a bit wider to the world, and beckoning those who want a better life to join us.

There are those who say this is bad, or at least needs to be controlled better. Mexican immigration has long been the first and only topic covered when some mentions "immigrant." Think about it. The first thing that comes to your mind when someone says "Immigrant," "migrant worker," "Illegal alien," or "immigration policy" is Mexico. We have been conditioned to believe that Mexican immigration is the biggest concern we have at this time.

But according to a new, in-depth study by the Pew Research Center, Mexico is no longer the primary source of immigrants. Nope, now we are seeing a surge in the number of Asian immigrants coming into the country.

There are a few reasons for this upswing. First of all, the main increase in job growth in America is coming from technology rather than manufacturing. Technology development is a strong field for Asian nationals to be in due to the intense focus on mathematics and science that Asian schools tend to have. They also are coming from countries where technological innovations are practically dropping out of the sky. Bringing that expertise to a country that is lagging behind in that area means Asian immigrants are highly sought after for their skills.

Asians are also flooding college campuses. Again, thanks to the outstanding schools in Asian countries, international students from those countries tend to do very well in American universities. They get a good education, and many of them stay, opting to renew their Visa's or going for citizenship.

Clearly, there are some big differences between the Mexican immigrant population, and the Asian immigrant population. But rather than focus on the illegal immigration of Mexicans, which Obama has been addressing in fine fashion, why aren't we talking about the implications of Asian immigration?

In regards to Mexican immigrants, those who come here tend to take physically taxing, low-paying jobs that Americans refuse to take. While there is a problem with illegal immigration from Mexico, the Pew report points out that illegal immigration has slowed, some Mexicans in America are actually leaving, and deportations are going up. On the other hand, Asian immigrants come here through legal channels, tend to take high-paying and highly sought-after jobs in the technical fields, and are flocking here in ever-increasing numbers.

How should the US respond to Asian immigration? We already have limits on the number of immigrants allowed into the US from certain regions, but we also fast-track individuals who are immigrating here for education or business investment purposes. We also take on the highly-skilled before laborers. But what this does is sets up a system in which the country is taking in immigrants who are taking job opportunities from citizens. This has been the argument about Mexican immigrants for a long time, but the difference is that, rather than these jobs being labor positions that Americans refuse to take anyway, these are high-quality tech jobs that require extensive experience and likely a college education. That means, this is opening up immigrant competition in the emerging fields of technology. While that may be good for our economy as a whole, it does not bode well for citizen job-seekers.

So, what do we do? In my opinion, there's not much we can do, unless we want to start employing isolationist tactics. One option would be the classic standby of tax subsidy to businesses that balance their hiring between immigrant and citizen workers. Another could be to further limit immigrant worker's time in the country, forcing them to return to their native country on a regular basis. But no matter what steps are taken, there are certainly no easy answers.

I would argue that this immigration issue is much more concerning than that of Mexican immigration, especially considering the recent trends. But to shift the national discussion in a new direction after so many years of hard-nosed debate over the the southern border will be difficult, to say the least.

1 comment:

samp said...

FINALLY!!!! Someone (you) has seen the light go on on the "real" immigration problem; those coming in bigger and bigger numbers for Asia, India, Japan etc. and taking high paying jobs NOT jobs Americans don't want to do. One of the contributors are the colleges, including UVM, that recruit and actually set quotas to bring foreign students to their campuses. Too bad they don't give the same consideration to those U.S. citizens applying to their own colleges. Thanks for bringing this up. Good luck trying to stem this flow. Way too much money involved and many of our elected officials help in getting these highly trained foreigners here. I know I was involved with it in INS when I worked in MIA, and Hartford. Especially in Hartford. Sens. Dodd, Weicker and others expedited these students admissions or highly skilled foreign works. The U.S. should increase the number of students who are citizens in the fields like engineering and other high technologies. Also, the EB-5 Visa program is another way aliens "buy" their way in. In the EB-5 that at least have to put up a minimum of %500,000 and agree to create a certain number of jobs, I think the number is 10. Should be US citizens but I don't know for sure. One problem who checks that they did create the jobs and whether they are permanent and have to be long term? Enforcement or really the lack of it of these types of programs has always been the major flaw. A great example of that is employer sanctions from the 1986 Simpson/Monoli bill which led to the creation of the I-9 form which is still required but rarely checked by ICE.