It’s hard to define the right number of green cards precisely, but with millions of individuals waiting in line in other countries to get one, it seems fair to say that the current number of approximately one million per year is too low. Legal immigration has benefits not just for our society and many American families, but for our nation’s economy as well. There is more to immigration reform than the matter of the 12 million people in the United States illegally, but so much attention is paid to that dilemma that equally important questions are neglected. Namely, how can the United States streamline and improve the process through which legal immigrants are welcomed to our country?
I believe that our immigration system must more rationally determine who should be eligible to earn permanent residency in the United States. There are easier cases, such as people who have ties to immediate family here in the United States, or individuals who can contribute to growing our economy. Then there are harder cases that are more fraught with political difficulty – for example, immigrants brought here illegally as children. The political consensus amongst center-right and center-left policymakers seems to be that we should allow these individuals to get access to permanent residency and eventually citizenship here.
The one thing the process should avoid is randomness. The notion, for example, that people ought to be allowed to come and stay in the United States permanently because they participate in and win a lottery designed to promote the geographic diversity of immigrants to our shores is antiquated and ineffective. We should instead be putting in place a process that rationally promotes merit or the value of bringing families together.
Ultimately, “right-sizing” the number of green cards is just one aspect of fixing our broken immigration system. But it seems like a place where we can actually find consensus between Republicans and Democrats seeking reform.