Simplifying Immigration to Benefit Nation

Congress must restructure the US immigration system from the ground up, eschewing traditional immigration priorities and formulating a simplified immigration framework, according to a report from an academic panel released Wednesday.

The 20-member University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Immigration made 25 specific recommendations for the creation of an immigration architecture that could guide comprehensive immigration reform efforts in its report Architecture for Immigration Reform: Fitting the Pieces of Public Policy.

Many politicians, academics, analysts and others have contributed ideas and research to efforts concerning immigration reform, while advocating for or against legalizing illegal immigrants in the United States, noted panel chairman James Griesemer. But few if any have advanced to the next step of building an architecture around the concept.

"What is required is an overarching design that can guide the formation of a comprehensive immigration policy," Griesemer wrote in an introduction to the report. "Such an architecture begins with an understanding of the landscape, proceeds to define purpose and priorities, and establishes clear goals. These things provide a framework within which specific policy recommendations may be ordered."

Instead of dwelling on the details of how to implement specific recommendations, the panel focused on the desired outcomes of its recommendations. Many of the recommendations have been offered by other organizations in the past, but few have attempted to shape them into a cohesive framework, the report noted.

To do so, the United States must refresh its goals for establishing US immigration policy, the report stated. The federal government must define criteria by which to judge various immigration reform proposals.

"It is important that any such criteria not be sub-rosa, but be clearly articulated," the report said. "To that end, the panel recommends that the criterion for ordering immigration priorities and goals be the relative degree of benefit to the United States as a whole compared with the benefit to prospective immigrants. Using this criterion, goals providing greater benefit to the US receive a higher priority, while the goals providing a greater degree of benefit to the individual immigrant receive a lower priority."

The result would be a change in the national policy goals for supporting an immigration system, the panel envisioned. Desirable immigration regulations then should support five policy areas: national security, social vitality, economic enhancement, family unification, and refugee concerns.

"It is important to note that these goals are not congruent with current US immigration policy goals, nor do they share the same priorities. Current US policy goals are family unification, admission of immigrants with needed skills, refugee relief, and diversity of admissions by country of origin," the report asserted.

The current policy goals have spawned a labyrinth of different classifications for non-immigrant aliens, who actually receive most of the opportunities to become US legal residents, the report said. Various classifications of foreigners in the United States are each subject to different rules but also encounter many exceptions to those rules. As such, categorization of foreigners in the United States should be simplified to include visitor, student, temporary, convertible, family, provisional, representative, and refugee–regardless of immigrant or non-immigrant status, the report argued.
Other recommendations of the report include a clear delineation of federal and state spheres of legislative activity defining the sort of immigration regulations each level of government can enact; responsiveness to changing economic conditions; and the elimination of the annual diversity visa lottery in foreign countries.

Congress also must enforce strong border security, collaborate closely with USemployers, and make permanent the E-Verify employment verification program, the report suggested. Employers should utilize a secure identification card to ensure a legally eligible workforce.

In addition, immigrants should learn English and receive English language training funded by the US federal government, the report said. Authorities should not extend federal, state and local benefits reserved for US citizens and legal residents to illegal immigrants.

Moreover, Congress should establish an Immigration Management Commission that works closely with states and employers to allocate employment-based visas on an annual basis, based on economic conditions, the report said. Skilled workers should receive opportunities to convert their visa status and become permanent legal residents.

In cases of family unification, authorities should permit family-based immigration on the number of employment and refugee visas available rather than a strict numeric cap, the report said. Congress also should limit eligible family members to spouses, unmarried minor children, and parents.

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