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Economist's Market-Based Immigration Proposal Draws Interest in DC

Posted: May 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A meeting featuring U.S. economic experts, business leaders, policy strategists and advocates has highlighted the urgency to enact legislation that they claim can put an end to this nation’s political stalemate on immigration and bring about economic prosperity.

With back-to-back sessions May 15 at the National Press Club here, The Hamilton Project presented a report authored by Italian economist Gionvanni Peri proposing reforms that would create a market-based immigration system for the United States.

Peri’s report, "Rationalizing U.S. Immigration Policy: Reforms for Simplicity, Fairness and Economic Growth," the latest in a series, has been praised as one that identifies simple solutions to the polemic and convoluted problem.

Peri, who teaches at the University of California at Davis, presents his report in three phases:
• Let the market demand dictate the allocation of temporary employment visas for specific existing categories
•Simplify the current rigid visa guidelines and extend the auction system to include provisional visas that could be converted into permanent resident visas.
• Expand the reforms to encompass more immigration.

National public radio ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, who served as a panelist, labeled it “an interesting idea that could break the political logjam over immigration.”

To move into a productive future, this country must first put aside the current debate’s conflicting nativist and open-borders voices and focus instead on letting the market dictate the terms of immigration flows, agreed panelist Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza.

“Businesses cannot wait five to 10 years for comprehensive immigration reform,” echoed Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of Silver Lake, a technology firm headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif.

Hutchins complemented his remarks with such statistics as more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children and that 25 percent of recent technology startup ventures sprung from the ideas of immigrants.

Many experts have written reports highlighting the positive economic contributions immigrants have made to the U.S. economy. Included among them Samuel Addy of the University of Alabama and University of California at Los Angeles economist Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda.

Under Peri’s proposal, the federal government would auction off high-skilled and low-skilled visas to employers seeking to recruit immigrants. He told Hispanic Link News Service, “Every little bit helps. Policy changes don’t come easily unless people start talking.”

His proposal has received positive feedback from various federal officials, including the White House officials. Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Council, noted that his efforts could kick-start once again the need to find solutions to illegal immigration.

“It could be the game-changer to move progress forward,” she said.

Washington correspondent Luis Carlos López covered Peri’s presentation for Hispanic Link News Service. Email him at lclopez4@gmail.com

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