Immigration in the Time of Joe Biden: What to Do (Part 6 of 11)

Work Targeted Immigration

Of the roughly 1,2 million admitted in 2016, only a little more than 10%, 140,000 were granted admission on the basis of some occupational qualification or other work-related fact. This is a small number for a mostly prosperous population of 320,000,000. The possibility that this small number outstrips either our economic capacities or our economic needs is difficult to consider.

One important problem is which workers to admit. The federal government cannot, in principle, determine by itself what categories of foreign workers are required. The current system, under which industry associations and sometimes single companies lobby the government for foreign visas is probably the best we can do. I mean that every other system imaginable is liable to be worse in some respect or other. It’s liable to be worse, in particular because it could induce the creation and/or growth of even more eternal government bureaucracies. Congress can help by quickly enlarging the number of such work visas available in any given year. (As it has done recently, in late 2020.) Greater flexibility than is current, trying to map quickly changes in real labor markets are desirable. I have not thought about how to achieve such flexibility. I don’t think though that the federal government should indirectly, through targeted visas predict winning and losing economic sectors.

We do know from experience that loosely defined “high tech” fields as well as agriculture are perennially short of workers. There must be others. The most efficient and least expensive way to provide such would be a system that is not a system in a government sort of way but a situation where foreigners find and walk to waiting jobs as needed. This non-system violates some of the strictest requirements of sovereignty, of course. Yet, it may be preferable to the current situation. A single inventive alteration in our immigration policies would go a long way toward helping fill low-skilled labor skills, including agricultural ones.

[Editor’s note: this is Part 6 of an 11-part essay. You can read Part 5 here, or read the essay in its entirety here.]

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