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One of the major criticisms of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, which legalized nearly three million unauthorized immigrants, was its failure to deal with future workforce needs. The authors assumed employer sanctions would deter future unauthorized immigration, but they did not anticipate the increased need for immigrant workers. Overall immigration numbers were not adjusted to meet demand. In fact, they haven’t changed for over 20 years! Not since 1990 has Congress changed the immigrant visa system.
The growing economy, widely available jobs, and inefficient enforcement have all led to continued unauthorized immigration. We have had a huge increase in enforcement efforts in the past five years. However, enforcement only is not the solution. Regulating the future flow of immigration is. For example, increasing the number of visas available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, or encouraging foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the United States, are measures supported by both Republicans and Democrats. However, other aspects of future immigration flow, such as temporary workers are more controversial.
Temporary workers in particular are touchier because, right or wrong, many believe there are a finite number of jobs and if you let in too many immigrants then you will be taking jobs away from Americans and giving them to foreigners. I don’t agree that there are a finite number of jobs. This ignores that foreigners do very different jobs than Americans. Regardless of where you fall on this topic, the future-flow issue is a necessary part of reform if we are to solve the question of unauthorized immigrants, once and for all.
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