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Bloggings: Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Is the Perfect the Enemy of the Good? By Roger Algase

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The announcement by USCIS on March 15 (see the March 18 ID issue) that it anticipates the possibility of receiving more H-1B cap petitions for FY 2014 during this coming April 1-5, the first five days of the filing period, than there are visas available for the entire year, is a stark reminder that there are many other urgent issues involved in immigration reform besides the Pathway to Citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants which has been receiving so much focus in the media.


The very idea that an advanced country like the US should have to hold a lottery in order to choose which of the most highly skilled and educated foreign professional workers, with all their job creating potential, should be allowed to work in this country is absurd on its face. The notion that American companies should have to wait for lottery results in order to find out if they will be able to hire their most qualified foreign employees is even more absurd and irrational.


Since there appears to be wide agreement in both parties that the number of H-1B visas should be increased, why not do that without further delay, without holding this badly needed reform hostage to other contentious issues such as the Pathway to Citizenship for unauthorized immigrants?


If Congress were to increase the number of H-1B visas now, would that prevent it from going ahead with other aspects of reform in a separate bill, or bills? Is there also a cap on the number of laws that Congress can pass affecting immigration or any other issue in one year? 


The same can be said for other reform issues, such as, for example, guest workers (see the March 18 ID editorial comment). Why should action on granting relief from deportation to 11 million unauthorized immigrants depend on the entirely separate issue of how many guest workers America needs?


As the March 18 ID editorial points out, business and labor are so far apart on guest workers that there might  be no chance of resolving that issue any time soon. Should other urgent reforms fail for that reason? Does "all or nothing" immigration reform really make sense?


The main argument against "incrementalism" in immigration reform is that some of the most important issues, such as legalization, might never get resolved. The can might be kicked down the road indefinitely. But would not some reform be better than none at all? 


The American public has been taught to believe that a Grand Bargain is the best solution to any issue. But what happens when a Grand Bargain turns out to be No Bargain At All? Up to now, I have supported CIR as much as anyone else.


But the possibility that yet another tragicomedy may play out with the H-1B visa limits this year should be a wake up call that instead of looking for Grand Bargains in the sky, it might be better to proceed with piecemeal immigration reform here on earth. The perfect can often be the enemy of the good.

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