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3 Promising Ideas for Immigration Reform


Those in favor of immigration reform like to talk about the value of high-skilled immigration, the kind with degrees and training and impressive work experience. But think about young Steve Jobs and how he would have appeared to immigration authorities: a college drop-out, a rebel, a hippie. Motivated, sure. But technically skilled? Who’d have guessed?

Forbes contributor Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry introduces some thoughtful suggestions for the U.S. as it tackles comprehensive immigration reform. Instead of focusing entirely on technical qualifications, the nation should look back to its roots as a shelter for the poor, the tired and huddled masses, as a magnet for ingenuity and enterprise. 

Before getting into the recommendations, Gobry says the U.S. should remember that its most valuable stock is in human capital. And that intangibles like diversity of background and experience and motivation should be considered in addition to measurable merits like college degrees and accolades. 

Also, think of the nation’s heritage as refuge for people in need. Not everyone who’s welcome here has to be an engineer. There’s room for those who struggle, too.

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So, in facing reform, Gobry says, the nation’s lawmakers should keep the following in mind (he lists six suggestions, but we’ve plucked three of our favorites):

1. Actually recruit, don’t just fill out checkmarks on a form.
Think of the way someone n HR recruits for a job opening. They don’t just fill out checklists, mindlessly marking off the technical requirements. They look for the intangibles, too. Are they motivated? Do they aspire to fulfill the American dream?

2. Set up U.S. charter cities.
Charter cities could act as immigrant reserves, Gobry says. Giving people work opportunities in these charters could be a good way screen people for the above-mentioned motivation and potential to live up to their promise in America.

3. Offer asylum.
This goes back to U.S. heritage. Think of how much talent we imported when European anti-Semitism drove out so many of their Jewish neighbors during WWII. We got all that human capital and it made us greater. If we continue that role, we continue granting people refuge from persecution, we add so much value and honor that heritage that brought the Mayflower pilgrims over from persecution in England.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think the U.S. should keep in mind as it wrestles with how to reform its immigration policies? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: Stephen C. Webster/Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
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