By Helen Raleigh
Published January 27, 2020
While most attention on the immigration issue in the U.S. focuses on illegal immigration, major problems in our system of legal immigration continue to plague our country – and give immigrants incentives to come to America illegally.
Our nation, businesses and immigrants themselves would benefit greatly if we adopted a skills-based immigration system like that used by some other countries, including Canada and Australia. President Trump would be wise to seek approval for such a system from Congress and to campaign in favor of it as he seeks reelection.
The majority of immigrants to the U.S. came here legally and followed our immigration laws. I am one of them. Yet we rarely hear discussions in the media about reforming legal immigration.
Our legal immigration system is notorious for its long delays, huge backlogs, strict quotas, complexity, high costs and inconsistent messages. Following the law means that legal immigrants have to wait in line patiently – sometimes for decades.
America’s broken legal immigration system hasn't changed much since the 1965 Immigration Act. As a result, it is so outdated that it doesn't serve our nation's interests any longer. Some migrants are turned off by the long wait and high costs of legal immigration and would rather seek a faster – though far riskier – illegal route to the U.S.
In order to address illegal immigration, America must fix our legal immigration system. To make our legal immigration system great again requires bold ideas and fresh thinking.
Simply adding another visa category or increasing funding to the Department of Homeland Security won't do. We need to have a skills-based immigration system. Only such a system will ensure a win-win for both our nation and future immigrants.
With skills-based immigration we will get the immigrants who can contribute to our economy. Immigrants who come here with skills will know that they will have job opportunities, and will be able to live a happy and productive life in this beautiful land.
Immigration reform was a major issue in the British election last month that kept Prime Minister Boris Johnson in office. Johnson used his support for skills-based immigration to win the election, proving that advocating for this change could help President Trump as well.
When the United Kingdom held its referendum for Brexit in 2016, the two main reasons people voted to leave the European Union were immigration and sovereignty.
The president should lay out his vision for a better future and articulate how to make our legal immigration great again both for America and for the millions of America-loving and hardworking migrants who want to make America their home.
The majority of those favoring leaving the EU didn't reject all immigration. Many recognized immigrants' contribution to the British society and economy. But they voted to leave the EU because they believed such a vote offered the best chance for the United Kingdom to regain control over immigration and its own borders.
Johnson wants his country to adopt a skills-based immigration system, similar to what Australia and Canada have.
How does a skills-based immigration system work?
Australia’s skills-based immigration system uses a point system to evaluate an immigration applicant’s age, English language ability, education, work experience and skills. A person who seeks to immigrate to Australia must do a self-assessment online and score at a certain level.
In addition to the point system, applicants must select an occupation from the Australian government’s Skilled Occupation List and have their skills assessed by a recognized authority.
Only applicants who receive at least a passing score and demonstrate experience in occupations on the list are invited to apply for skills-based immigration.
The labor force participation rate of independent skilled immigrants is 96 percent in Australia – much higher than the 67 percent among native-born Australians.
Canadian government data shows that the labor participation rate for immigrants through the federal skilled worker program was 89 percent.
How does all this impact the U.S.?
Other than advocating for an open border, the Democratic presidential candidates haven't offered anything new. Their proposals will only worsen the immigration problems in this country.
Rather than focusing on who we should keep out of our country, President Trump should talk more about who we want to welcome in.
Rather than focusing on problems, the president should lay out his vision for a better future and articulate how to make our legal immigration great again both for America and for the millions of America-loving and hardworking migrants who want to make America their home.
Legal immigrants made America great in the first place and can keep America great. A skills-based immigration system will ensure that we are admitting immigrants who can make the greatest contribution to building a better future for our nation.