We proudly announce our 2013 Blogathon winner: Subrata Saha! Her winning submission follows. We congratulate her on a very thoughtfully writing and impassioned spirit on this topic all-important to our community & readers.
My parents immigrated to the U.S. from India. I could go on and tell you about how they are productive, good people, but I’m not going to. Sharing my story won’t help you think about the immigration debate in any real constructive, analytical way. It might make you feel good for a few seconds, but there’s chicken soup for the soul for that. This post is not about feelings. This post is about how should our immigration policy be reformed.
So when the pen touches the paper and proposals are to be produced for lawmakers, how should we do this?
I don’t know. I’m not an expert on immigration. I’m not a social scientist, or an immigration attorney, or someone who knows econometrics very well and can analyze all of the data.
But what I do know is that there are beginning steps in how immigration policy should be reformed. More specifically, these steps are about how we should think about immigration policy. Let’s face it, at this hour, this post, nor others like it, will have any effect on the Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 that is up for debate. What this post instead hopes to do is to get you to think about immigration policy reform in a slightly different way. This will hopefully allow you to think about immigration not just now, but down the line.
(1) Open Your Mind About Immigration
Let’s get rid of all immigration. I mean, hell, why or why not? Let’s just close all of the doors to legal, and to the best of our ability, illegal immigration. Do we even need it? Let’s just subsist on what we got and see how it goes. Is that a bad idea? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future.
Or how about just making it a free for all? Let in whoever wants to come. Give us your tired, your sick, your poor, etc.
The point is: we need to be more broad minded about immigration. By thinking of all sorts of possibility reforms, we think more about the reasons why we do things. This will help us better think about what it is that we really want for our country.
(2) Move Past Thinking about What’s Fair and What’s Not Fair
The government isn’t about fairness. A rich person pays more in pure dollars in income tax than a poor person. As if that’s not enough, a rich person also pays a higher percentage for income tax than a poor person. That’s not fair. But neither taxes nor the government are about fairness. It’s about interests and the betterment of society. On the same token, immigration should not be about fairness either. An illegal immigrant comes to the U.S., works her butt off for years, and is productive in the economy. Would it be fair to grant her amnesty just because of her efforts? Maybe, maybe not. But again, we are not about fairness. The government should think more broadly than simply thinking about fairness. This should be considered when thinking about issues like amnesty or giving people opportunity.
(3) Think Less Like Positional Bargainers
“There’s too much immigration!” “We need more immigration!” This type of attitude gets us nowhere.
Positional bargaining, as discussed in Fisher’s and Ury’s modern classic “Getting to Yes,” is where each side opens with their fixed position on an issue and argues for it without considering underlying interests. The typical example is haggling over price. Sometimes a compromise is reached. And often both parties end up feeling crappy. The authors of “Getting to Yes” instead suggest bargaining on interests.
We haggle too much on immigration, particularly immigration numbers. Get past that and consider what are the real interests of the U.S. What do we really want? What are we really interested in? Having a greater diversity in population? Making sure low-level jobs are fulfilled? Highly-skilled jobs? Trying to market the U.S. as the central place for everyone to try to come?
Positional bargaining also causes us to have blinders. If we are pro-immigration, we are happy that more H-1B visas are available. If we are anti-immigration, we are happy that less H-1B visas are available. But what about the idea that many domestic individuals are qualified for the same jobs that H-1B visa holders are taking up? Or that H-1B visa holders are often underpaid and can often have a seemingly indentured servant relationship with their employer? By focusing less about the numbers and more on interests we can better analyze whether goals of visa holders and the U.S. are being met.
In short, when it comes to immigration policy, think outside the box and think about interests. At best, you can help shape the future immigration policy of our country. At worst, you can have more interesting conversations about immigration reform. And of course, if all else fails, fall back on a chicken soup for the soul story.
– Subrata Saha