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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

A PLAN TO TAKE CONGRESS OUT OF THE EQUATION ON DETERMINING FOREIGN WORKER NUMBERS?

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The LA Times has a very interesting article talking about potential plans for comprehensive immigration reform that involve a major - and risky - change in strategy. According to the report, the CIR bill would look very similar to prior years, but in order to appease labor unions, a new independent commission would be created to assess employment-based visa numbers. According to the LA Times

The new proposal, as laid out by several participants in the
behind-the-scenes negotiations, would also create an independent
commission that would assess labor and industry data to decide how many
foreign workers should be allowed into the country. The system,
designed by Ray Marshall, a Labor secretary under President Carter,
would replace a maze of special temporary worker visas that are granted
each year to high-tech specialists, agriculture workers and other
foreigners brought into the U.S. by foreign and domestic firms.


The article mentions that this proposal could cause key Republicans like John McCain to drop their support for CIR.

And I can understand why pro-business advocates in Congress would be concerned. I'm also worried about labor unions having the final say in determining visa numbers since - sorry to say it - they have a tendency to act like the OPEC cartel when it comes to allowing employers access to needed workers. In the nursing context, a few labor organizations have done everything possible to preserve a severe nursing shortage - a shortage that endangers patients but has the happy effect of dramatically driving up wages. I'm happy when labor unions work to protect working conditions for exploited immigrant workers. But they should not be permitted to dictate populist protectionist policies that damage our economy.

On the other hand, Congress has done a dreadful job determining appropriate visa numbers. In the past, they cut numbers as we were coming out of a recession and raised them when a boom was ending. And we're now at a number for H-1Bs and skilled/professional worker green cards that was set in 1990 even though our economy is much larger. The result has been employers voting with their feet and outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, taking employment opportunities for Americans away as well. The status quo clearly isn't working either.

We also have international treaty obligations that bar us from imposing protectionist measures that would result in fewer visa numbers so I suspect that there would be constraints on anything too draconian being imposed by a commission. We already have seen this reality serve as a useful firewall during recent attempts to bar TARP-recipient banks from having access to H-1B workers. Congress backed down on a plan to bar such employers from using the visas since it would have likely violated our obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

I suspect the devil is in the details including

- how will commission members be appointed
- how long will terms be and what power will a President have to replace someone
- are specific "slots" reserved for labor interests, business interests, etc.
- will the commission merely make recommendations or will they have actual authority to set numbers and visa rules

I'm interested in hearing more about this proposal because I could actually see some benefits in a TRULY independent commission that actually could actually make needed changes based on what's in the best interest of the country rather than just meeting short term political demands. So what will be important is learning how Congress will ensure that the commission will not simply be a tool for one interest or another.

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  1. AD's Avatar
    Good luck with this. Congress will refuse to give away its power and let immigration dictated by prejudices of some other educated folks rather than their own egos. Why would any member of congress want to lose some of his/her bargaining power by putting it in the hands of labor unions/economists and others. The idea is great. But this is not the Federal reserve counting money. This is a commission on counting people. The closest this can come to is Congress will get recommendations from this commission and vote on similar legislation. Money and Immigration are totally different.
  2. Dev.d's Avatar
    I shudder to imagine the magnitude of damage that will be done with labour commissions setting up and overlooking skilled worker migration as against economists and business leaders. What is more of a concern though is the fact that the fog and tremors created by the recession at present will directly dictate and influence long term immigration policies regarding skilled worker. Now that is a dangerous reality that can easily be given into.
  3. Jim's Avatar
    If it's going to be a truly independent commission and leaves out groups that have vested interest for or against it, why not.

    If it's going to be just another stepping stone for certain unions to get more powerful and get more influence and political clout, it will back fire on America's economy.

    This would make China more a capitalist nation and USA the socialist nation, in my humble opinion.

    In a time that other nations are opening up even more than ever in these times, the US is going the opposite direction.

    It's already happening now.... the EU is resisting the US's and UK's pushing them to do more stimulus.

    If the US makes one major false move and becomes a protectionist nation, EU and other nations will cease the opportunity.

    People will soon clamor more for blue cards that the green card.

  4. Nurse's Avatar
    "The result has been employers voting with their feet and outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, taking employment opportunities for Americans away as well. The status quo clearly isn't working either."

    These same employers will not think twice before outsourcing jobs regardless of h1b/GC numbers. They save nearly 60-70% on entry level programmer by sending it to India. Entry level job here is 60k and in India entry level job pays 6k by companies like Infosys, TCS etc. No amount of regulation can stop outsourcing when savings are so huge. I don't see how this argument of increasing h1b can stop outsourcing.
    Decoupling h1b and employer to some extent can stop exploitation of h1b workers by body shoppers. Outsourcing is a big monster which will be difficult to control. It didn't stop manufacturing base to shift to China. It will not stop Admin base to go to India.
  5. Nurse's Avatar
    "If the US makes one major false move and becomes a protectionist nation, EU and other nations will cease the opportunity.
    People will soon clamor more for blue cards that the green card."

    Nowhere in near future will green card lose its value. US is not just a destination for leading better life in monetary terms. Racism in Europe is very widespread. They have shown very good tendency to favor white people and pass regulations to keep them in power. People in US are to be commended for electing black president and getting beyond the racial terms. This is a big factor when intelligent people chose place to stay. Incase you have not noticed lot of doctors, engineers are shifting from UK to Canada/US. I don't see many people leaving US to go to Europe. US is a very fair country and its people are more accepting than any other people I have seen so far on planet. Here laws are not just in books but actually followed in real life. In UK you will never see anti racism laws being followed in real life.
  6. mulberry's Avatar
    Are you kidding me?? -"Labor unions will decide how many people come into the country"

    If people are dumb enough to consider this view, then they should consider the diametrically opposite view - "Immigrants themselves will decide if they want to come and go"

    Both the ideas do not make sense, and that's precisely why they should not be allowed.
  7. raji's Avatar
    Hello Greg,

    I sincerely hope that the congress and the attorneys in USA are aware that the Nurse have almost stopped taking NCLEX RN exam. A large number of the Nurses from Asia who had filed their I 140 petitions have now started moving to Australia, Newzeland, Ireland etc. If the congress delays the retrogression relief, the congress will need to bring in two legislation when the US will be in desparate need for Nurses. One legislation will be for waiving off the educational requirement of NCLEX and other for releasing visas. All are under the impression that there about 30,000 to 35,000 RNs available for USA if retrogression relief comes, but the truth will be that not even 20,000 will finally be available since those settled in Ireland or Australia will no longer be interested to come to USA. We sincerely hope you will bring the above points to the notice of congress. Greg, any update on new version of 5924?
  8. Jim's Avatar
    "Nowhere in near future will green card lose its value"....

    Believe me, I know what you mean and agree with most of what you say.

    I was exaggerating with regards to the EU/blue card comment and the China comment just to make a point : )
  9. Another voice's Avatar
    Seriously doubt that this could work out with out the support of Business and a few republicans....Labor Unions are no fiends of immigrants nor business, this is pretty bad!!!
  10. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    I think, the influence of organized labor is way too overestimated. I believe taking Congress out of the decision making is a good thing. Putting immigration quotas by the law makes just about as much sense as setting gas prices through the law.
  11. George Chell's Avatar
    If they want jobs to move abroad, this is a very good idea!
  12. George Chell's Avatar
    Perhaps this is what they want and expect to see these incidents repeated if we do away with H1B or drastically strengthen the restrictions...

    http://www.kttc.com/Global/story.asp?S=10076603&nav=menu1348_2_6

    No one owes anyone anything. Furthermore is there a constitutional issue? I thought only elected members can make decision on immigration. It may not survive the courts.
  13. D's Avatar
    OMG, This is liberal version of points based system

  14. George Chell's Avatar
    Perhaps they need to create a unit in the federal reserve system to do this..if they want to take it away from the congress..they are the best people to determine without any partisanship as to how many workers the economy requires or how many workers are needed to ramp up growth without igniting inflation!
  15. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    George - That's a great idea.
  16. gg's Avatar
    Interesting article !!!

  17. George Chell's Avatar
    Want to double the salary of nurses and doctors as the antis in FAIR and CIS want..want to increase the cost of health care..they will live with the consequences...dont think that people will not seek medical treatment abroad due to lower costs...think again...

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/27/india.medical.travel/index.html
  18. Jim's Avatar
    @George,

    That was an excellent article from CNN. Pretty much summed up everything on what is wrong with the US Healthcare and other 1st world Healthcare systems.

    I think value and accessibility would be the areas that the US HC system must compete.

    I know it would be unrealistic to bring down HC costs similar to India and other countries but HC costs need not be 10-20x more expensive with practically the same technology, service and medical procedure.

    With regards to salaries, I agree that doctors in the US are overpaid. Doctors, esp. on select specialties deserve high salaries but not as high as they are getting now. In the mean time primary physicians, geriatricians, general internists and other less glamorous areas are not getting a fair share of well-deserved salaries. Some one has to burst that bubble and re-allocate it primary physicians, et al.

    With regards to nurse salaries, I think it still has room for a few % more increase in salaries over-time but definitely not double over a period of a just a few years w/c I think what nursing organizations and other orgs with vested interest are trying to do by preserving the nursing shortage.

  19. Sid's Avatar
    George & Jim,

    There are two major differences between healthcare in the U.S. and India (till 9 years back when I was still around) -

    1) The Indian healthcare system for most part is a free market system. No healthcare providers - no middlemen => lower costs. Doctors not associated with hospitals and nursing homes set up their own private practices. You get sick, you go to the best doctor you can afford. Those who can't afford that go to the government hospitals at their own risk.

    2) Doctors do not buy malpractice insurance. People do not sue doctors for millions if something goes wrong. This is another major reason for healthcare costs going through the roof in the U.S.

    There are exceptions to these rules and I suspect that with so many MNCs setting up shop there, healthcare providers have a more active role to play now. After all, who doesn't want to emulate the U.S?
  20. Jim's Avatar
    "After all, who doesn't want to emulate the U.S?"

    They better not. It's a flawed model that doesn't benefit the patients but benefits only the insurance companies and some greedy people. India is better off with it's current system and just need some tweaks and some improvements in my humble opinion.
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