Monday 12 May 2008
The U.S. economy does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, our economy is inextricably linked to the global economy. Globalization encompasses not only the accelerated movement of capital and goods and services across international boundaries, but also the less reflected-upon movement of labor across international borders.
Given the rapidly aging native-born population, there is a strong likelihood the U.S. economy will become increasingly reliant on an international labor market. As the Congressional Budget Office has observed, "[b]arring substantial shifts in demographic trends, immigrants and their descendants are expected to provide the majority of the nation's population growth during the next half century."
A continued influx of immigrant workers should not be feared, but it must be managed within a legal framework where the rule of law is observed by all. The constant flow of unauthorized workers into the country, the shortage of visas for highly educated workers, and the interminable waits that separate too many families seeking to reunite in the United States make clear that our current broken system fails to meet this basic requirement.
U.S. international economic and development policy also does not do enough to reinforce efforts to manage increased labor mobility. A truly comprehensive response to our immigration challenges must include advancing policies that help generate decent work and improve the quality of life in the predominantly poor countries that are the birth places of many of the immigrants coming to the United States. The responsibility for generating economic opportunity in those countries falls primarily on their political and economic elites, but the United States cannot be blind to the migratory side effects of our international economic and development policies.
In short, immigration reform efforts must fit the reality of the global movement of people and labor and seek to establish policies to manage and enhance greater legal immigration into the United States.