India could benefit from Trump’s merit-based immigration policy | opinion | Hindustan Times
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India could benefit from Trump’s merit-based immigration policy

According to an analysis of 2013 figures by the Migration Policy Institute, Indian migrants to the US had double the English proficiency of the average migrant to the US and were twice as likely to have professional or advanced degrees

opinion Updated: Aug 03, 2017 21:40 IST
Donald Trump’s endorsement of the bill is a first step towards the US, the world’s largest immigrant destination, adopting an immigration policy that looks at the human capital that the immigrant brings
Donald Trump’s endorsement of the bill is a first step towards the US, the world’s largest immigrant destination, adopting an immigration policy that looks at the human capital that the immigrant brings(Reuters)

United States President Donald Trump yesterday declared his support for a Senate bill that would halve the number of visas for legal migrants into the US and introduce a merit- or points-based system for most of the remaining visas. Indians, the single largest pool of legal migration into the US today, would be affected by the loss of about 500,000 immigrant visas. But this would be partly offset by the fact Indians will fare well in the competition for the remaining visas.

Under the Senate bill, the best profile for a would-be US immigrant would be if he/she were between 26 and 31 years of age, had a professional degree from the US, spoke good English and earned three times the average income of their homeland. This new system would have no bearing on temporary work visas like H or L categories.

According to an analysis of 2013 figures by the Migration Policy Institute, Indian migrants to the US had double the English proficiency of the average migrant to the US and were twice as likely to have professional or advanced degrees. They were also four years younger than the median age of a US immigrant.

“This bill of course doesn’t deal with guest workers and temporary non-immigrant visas,” noted White House aide Stephen Miller during the announcement of the bill’s endorsement.

Australia was the pioneer of such points-based migration policies. Canada followed soon after. In both countries, middle class Indians benefited. India is today the number one immigrant source for Australia and is in the top three sources for Canada. The Australian points system was devised by a Hyderabad-born Indian Australian.

Washington observers doubt that Trump, who has been unable to pass any legislation in his first six months in office, has the requisite support in the US Congress. Many Republicans are strong supporters of immigration. Democrats oppose policies that effectively discriminate against low-class immigrants.

Nonetheless, Trump’s endorsement of the bill is a first step towards the US, the world’s largest immigrant destination, adopting an immigration policy that looks at the human capital that the immigrant brings.

Critics have long argued such point-based system aggravate the ‘brain drain’ factor in such immigration. But with anti-immigrant sentiment growing among the working class of many developed countries, closing the door to a similar class of third world migrants is seen as politically expedient response.

A US shift in this direction would probably ensure such a system will become the global norm for decades to come.

The Trump administration has already cracked down on illegal migration within the US. While previous administrations tended to focus on illegals who committed crimes, Trump’s executive orders have made being illegally in the country sufficient cause for arrest and deportation. In the first 100 days of his administration, 26% of illegal migrants apprehended had no criminal conviction as compared to 14% during the same period the year before. Overall arrests of illegals rose 38%.

Whether the Senate bill passes or not, Trump’s endorsement will help shore up his support among his working class constituency. That, ultimately, is probably his main political aim. The attempted ban on immigrants from some Muslim countries, the rise in arrest of illegals and now the restrictions on legal migration are all policies that the White House gave little attention to actual implementation. They were more interested in public spectacle and debate. Trump wants to be attacked on these policies and, therefore, feed a perception he is trying, as Miller noted, to impose an immigration policy that “prioritises the American worker.”

pchaudhuri@hindustantimes.com