Working Paper

Labor Shortages and US Immigration Reform: Promises and Perils of an Independent Commission

Published 1 January 2010 / By Martin Ruhs, Philip Martin

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Introduction

Comprehensive US immigration reform proposals have three major elements: improved border and workplace controls, dealing with the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US, and managing “future flows” of foreign workers requested by US employers. Improved controls and dealing with unauthorized foreigners were discussed extensively in the US Senate in 2006 and 2007. Future flows were not. This article reviews the decisions governments face when employers request migrant workers, Britain’s independent Migration Advisory Committee, and the promises and perils of a similar US commission to manage labor migration. We conclude that a US commission could help to clarify the trade offs involved in migrant labor policy, but cannot replace the need for inherently political choices between competing policy objectives.

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