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Economics professor devises market based immigration reform

A West Coast professor of economics is arguing that U.S. immigration laws should be reformed through a market-based system of auctions. The economist is unleashing his idea this week, and sources indicate that his idea of reforming immigration laws has attracted some attention on Capitol Hill.

He says that U.S. companies should have to compete in a market-based immigration visa auction system that he believes should replace the first-come, first-served work visa system currently in place under immigration law.

The professor of labor economics unveiled his proposal in a presentation held Tuesday morning. A White House domestic policy adviser was reportedly among those in attendance at the forum, which also included a variety of business leaders and a group of bipartisan politicians. There is no word on how the forum attendees took the professor's proposal.

He says that companies should compete in quarterly auctions to buy permits for employment-based visas. He thinks that the employment-based visa auctions would become more important than the family visa programs. The quirk in his market-based system is that businesses would purchase permits to hire immigrants.

The permits would be tied to temporary visas. But the visa holders would remain free to compete in the U.S. job market, and the immigrants would be free to move from job to job--but apparently only if the new employer has obtained one of the auctioned off permits to hire an immigrant worker.

The professor claims the revised immigration system would be based upon market demand for specific workers. The higher demand for workers in a field would raise the price of the winning bids for permits, which may compel Congress to increase the availability of permits in those specified fields to keep pace with market demand.

Revenues generated from the professor's immigration reform scheme would be made available to the government for immigration-based services.

The economist says that, "Immigration creates a large economic surplus for the American economy." He says that his market-based immigration reform "would certainly generate more awareness and clarity on the economic value of immigrants and immigration."

The academic proposal grew from the professor's economic research. A non-partisan think tank called the Hamilton Project, which is affiliated with the Brookings Institution, commissioned the professor to create a three step immigration overhaul.

The initial phase in the three step overhaul would involve a pilot program of issuing the temporary work visas that would also include a pathway to permanent residency. In later stages, the professor says the program would be expanded to other areas of immigration law and decrease the family-based immigration visa programs.

His proposal would not change immigration laws in cases involving refugees, or in cases of asylum and other humanitarian cases.

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Immigration permit auction touted as reform that would aid economy," Matt O'Brien, May 15, 2012

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