NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Immigration Policy Irrationally Rations Residency

April 26, 2001

The overwhelming majority of permanent immigrants to the United States are not admitted on the basis of any evidence of employability, savings or even minimal English language skills. More than 85 percent of legal immigration is reserved for those who come from only the most horrible countries, those whose relatives recently arrived in the United States (often as refugees or as illegal aliens granted amnesty or asylum), and those who happen to win the annual "diversity lottery." None of these admissions criteria are derived from the consideration of the economic and social impact on the American public at large.

Importing hundreds of thousands of undereducated poor people every year obviously dilutes the nation's average skill level, productivity and real wages. By 1997, census reports showed that only 31 percent of adult Mexican-born U.S. residents had acquired a high school degree. In addition, 34 percent of immigrants fell below the national poverty line.

Clearly, a change in immigration policy is necessary if we are to continue improving the U.S. workforce and keep any prospective immigrants from becoming permanent wards of the U.S. taxpayer.

Prospective immigrants must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to support themselves and their dependents. Relevant evidence could include:

  • Having a multiyear employment contract in the United States.
  • Proof of a marketable skill or craft, including experience.
  • Educational credentials.
  • And evidence of adequate savings for resettlement.

In short, potential immigrants should provide the sort of information routinely demanded when applying for a job or a mortgage. That information could then be evaluated subjectively or by some formal "point system."

Source: Alan Reynolds, "Immigration Policy as Random Rationing," American Outlook, November/December 2000, Hudson Institute.


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