In an effort to break the paralysis on immigration reform in Congress and to create an expanded menu of policy options for the incoming Biden administration, a number of groups are putting forth bold new ideas to enrich the discussion on immigration policy. One such group is the Niskanen Center, a Washington-based think tank that prides itself on bridging ideological and political divides, and that has just published a compendium of essays from 15 different authors on various aspects of immigration policy. The guiding philosophy behind the Center’s reform proposals is that immigration policy should benefit all Americans. As Suzette Brooks-Masters says in her introduction, it is vital to demonstrate how immigration serves the national interest, whether by stimulating economic growth, advancing American foreign policy goals, or affirming national values. Although the Center champions a broad array of immigration reform proposals, the essays in this publication deal primarily with high-skilled immigration and refugee-related issues. Among the proposals outlined in the report are: eliminating antiquated country green card quotas to allow more foreign-born graduates of U.S. medical schools to acquire permanent residence; creating a “heartland visas” to attract skilled immigrants to regions suffering demographic decline; updating the USCIS policy manual to make it clear that foreign-born experts in artificial intelligence should be considered individuals of “extraordinary ability;” revamping the H-1B program to eliminate abuses and to make the program more responsive to market conditions; providing a direct pathway to permanent residence for international Ph.D. students at American universities; enacting a new special immigrant visa (SIV) program to provide protections for at-risk employees of U.S. military and government agencies in other countries; providing temporary protected status for Venezuelans in the U.S. and establishing a refugee adjudication program within Venezuela; encouraging a hands-on approach to refugee resettlement by promoting the participation of community groups in the program; reforming the U visa system created under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and building on the success of the diversity visa program by expanding the program and reforming its outdated visa allotment system. Although the details for many of these proposals need to be fleshed out, Niskanen Director of Immigration Kristie De Peña sees them as “meaningful pieces of the broader reform puzzle that lawmakers must explore and pursue.” More importantly, she argues, the nation should not simply return to the past in its eagerness to reverse many of the Trump administration’s changes.
Redefining Immigration Reform: How Immigration Supports American Ideals
Niskanen Center, November 2020, 51 pp.