VI. Equitable Moderation: Consensus Through Second-Best Policy

This piece has developed a platform on which rests the economic realities and political possibilities for immigration policy reform in the United States.  The methodology discussion focused attention in part on what constitutes relevant knowledge and how to filter a vast array of immigration data according to a particular methodology.  The combined empirical, common-sense realism and pragmatism approach states that ideations concerning immigration policy reform must be tested against what is in order to build a platform of useful knowledge for making conclusions, deriving forecasts and solving problems.  It has been established that the basis of immigration policy analysis relies on the determinants of emigration and on the actual and potential consequences of immigration in terms of national interest maximization.  The push-pull analysis revealed that migrant incentive structures are economic in nature, with migration decisions made by rational utility-maximizing individuals in search of improved material conditions.  By outlining the economic implications of immigration, the author has brought to light the actual and potential consequences of these flows (and the consequences of inhibiting these flows) on the national interest of the United States as herein defined.

An appropriate approach to the economic issues central to immigration reform recognizes the reality of the United States’ need for migrant workers - both temporary and permanent - and embraces their presence in a spirit of nationalistic self-interest.  Evidence presented from the literature and statistical data revealed that migrants have contributed billions of dollars in net gains to the U.S. GDP and public accounts, and that expanded levels of immigration under a first-best policy would provide further benefits to the United States as a whole.  However, there would be an unequal distribution of first-best gains between the winners and losers of liberalized policy, and this inequality is the root of socio-political constructs around the issue of reform.  One important disclaimer to this idea, however, is that there is little evidence of substantial negative effects on domestic low-skilled wages or employment resulting from immigration, a phenomenon that can be attributed to an offset in migrant consumer demands and imperfect substitutes in the labor market.  An aging population, declining birth rate, a greater transition of American workers into high-skilled professions, and an increasingly segmented labor market means that the country is facing the possibility of a labor crisis, which can be ameliorated through liberalized immigration policy.  In this respect, migrants fulfill a crucial function in the U.S. economy by filling gaps in low-skilled occupations, particularly in agriculture, construction and low-skilled services, as well as contributing billions in consumer purchasing power.  At the same time, the total net fiscal effects of migration will depend upon the skill levels of migrants, indicating an equal need for expansionist admissions of such high-skilled migrants as scientists, engineers and health care workers.  High-skilled professionals from abroad not only provide balance to the public coffers, but greatly contribute to U.S. ingenuity and international competitiveness.


The politics of immigration are located in the relevant parties of power in a modern liberal democratic state, an analysis of which revealed that majorities in both the public vote and the special and public interests groups favor some type of expansionist immigration policy reform.  However, the restrictionist voice - articulated through the labor union lobby and effective public campaigns, and embraced by reactionary partisanship in Congress - means that political compromise is required.  Moreover, the polity section analyzed the key legislative proposal ideas dominating the current discussion, revealing that the most probable outcome of the American infighting over policy reform will be a prolonged stalemate ultimately leading to legislation that, while perhaps dramatic, will fall short of what is required to maximize the national interest.  In contrast, effective immigration policy reform will be found in a combination of mutually reinforcing policies established through a refreshingly moderate approach to the multiple issue layers as formulated through a reframing of immigration strategy.  Reason must lead, as tempered through compromise between the opposing sides in the U.S. polity, the polities of sending states, and migrants themselves, in order to find a workable middle-ground under the umbrella of what Demetrios Papademetriou (President of the Migration Policy Institute) refers to as "migration management." 156  The conjoining of political compromise and effective migration management, in turn, means that first-best policy must necessarily give way to second-best, as defined supra and precisely formulated in the following construction of "equitable moderation."


Emigration to the United States will remain, for the foreseeable future, the largest international migration flow in modern history.  Perpetually fueled by a large economic disparity between the United States and sending states abroad, and a strong demand in the United States for low- and high-skilled workers, there are no signs that the current immigration trend will weaken.  Addressing the future of U.S. immigration requires policy reform primarily rooted in economic reason, inclusive of the key issue of distributive justice between the winners and losers of liberalized immigration, though equally relevant to post-9/11 security needs, the rule of law, and cultural concerns.  Through the analysis presented herein, it has thus far become clear that the immigration status quo is founded upon political containment strategies alone and an essentially preservationist mentality no longer applicable in light of an evolving economic reality, and a more highly informed and tolerant society.  "Comprehensive" has become a political buzzword in the current immigration reform debate, a term intended to convey long-term meaning and efficacy, and this idea has captured popular attention.  Nevertheless, while radical restrictionist (i.e., "door wide shut") ideas provide a necessary balance to the reform debate by adjusting expansionist radicals (i.e., advocates of a "door wide open" approach) to more moderate positions, existing policy reform proposals are not genuinely "comprehensive" as they do not fully meet what is needed to maximize the economic national interest of the United States.  Whereas expansionist fundamentalism is an overkill model creating problems of its own, equitable and moderated expansionism, as formulated below, provides key reform provisions that will drive forward informed and reasoned political consensus.  And while extremists on both sides of the debate may find little solace in moderate expansionism, extremism appears to be losing the battle of ideas to more reasoned and historically seasoned approaches to reform.  Therefore, the leaders of these movements may find themselves increasingly marginalized as the U.S. polity works toward a shared consensus in both government and society through wider dissemination and absorption of applicable data and a deliberate practice of more thoughtful dialogue in public forums.


The success attribute of any meaningful reform model lies in its moderation.  In issues of political, religious and other socio-emotional significance, radical approaches rarely produce the necessary broad-based support or basest rationality for effective implementation and long-term success.  Moreover, "comprehensive" reform must be measured not by the number of changes but by the effectiveness of the changes made, as measured by their positive impact on the national interest.  Therefore, the most politically sound approach to immigration reform lies in the modification of key areas of immigration infrastructure dysfunction and necessary additions to and expansions of the current legal immigration landscape.  Moderate amendments to key components of law, regulation and application, as follows, would begin to remedy the aforementioned flaws in the existing immigration infrastructure, thereby greatly improving the U.S. migration management system and laying a foundation for further transformations of migrant incentive structures toward legality.  An equitable moderate approach combining the ideas forwarded in the following sections presents a thoughtful albeit simplified reform architecture that can be periodically revisited as the model plays itself through in the real world of implementation.  While the "should" language utilized in these sections may distract the reader by implying a more utopian frame of reference, it is important to recall that these recommendations are direct responses to the positivist-empirical, commonsensical and political realities discovered throughout this piece, rather than to baseless if well-intentioned idealism.  They aim to complete the pragmatic problem-solving objective of the piece through specific "doable" policy prescriptions, juxtaposed against the shortcomings of historical immigration policies and the current House and Senate bills.

156 Aleinikoff, et al., Immigration and Citizenship, 150.