Ray Marshall, President Carter’s Secretary of Labor, wrote an analysis of how the United States could create a coherent immigration policy in part borrowing on the work of Canada, Australia and Great Britain. Here are passages from the preface (Value-Added Immigration, Economic Policy Institute, 2011).
For most countries, these foreign worker flows are designed to overcome domestic labor shortages associated with economic development; aging populations; declining birth rates; the tendency of people with rising incomes to avoid menial, low-status work; and global skill shortages associated with technological and organizational changes.
Advanced liberal democracies such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have, in addition, supported their value-added economic agendas with complementary migration policies, including a shift in emphasis from family-based to employment-based migration; a greater emphasis on skilled migration; and the development of metrics, structures, and mechanisms designed to efficiently and flexibly adjust the flow of foreign workers to domestic labor shortages. Consistent with both political necessity and value-added principles, these countries have complemented foreign worker adjustment mechanisms with a variety of safeguards to prevent the depression of domestic wages and working conditions or the displacement of domestic workers. These labor protections also are compatible with the value-added principle that foreign workers should complement and not compete with domestic workers; adherence to this principle simultaneously garners greater public support and creates mutually beneficial or plus-sum outcomes.
The United States, like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, is an immigration nation, increasingly dependent on migration for its economic and social welfare, but it has immigration policies that are almost universally regarded as dysfunctional. The United States does not have a guiding national economic policy for the flow of foreign workers, with the predictable outcome of an immigration system that depresses wages and working conditions and accelerates growing income inequalities; it does not adjust the flow of foreign workers to measured labor market shortages; it has almost no reliable data to measure the number and characteristics of migrants, their social and economic impacts, or chances of success in domestic markets, or to determine whether foreign workers compete with or complement domestic workers; it has no high-level federal official primarily responsible for employment-based migration; it has the largest unauthorized migration levels in the industrialized world; and it does too little to protect either foreign or domestic workers or the national interest.