Two articles today discuss economic ideas for fine-tuning immigration policy. James Miller writes,
The guest worker program should allocate visas to communities and then permit each community to decide how many of their visas to issue. For example, if Northampton, MA received fifty visas but wanted only twenty guest workers, the town would not be compelled to allot the extra thirty...
Immigration policy could be improved even further by allowing communities to sell their unwanted guest worker visas to other towns.
But simply requiring workers to return home is not enough. Attractive incentives must be provided as well, and those in the Bush plan are inadequate. Devesh Kapur, a professor of government at Harvard, who with his colleagues has done comprehensive research in the field, suggests that one possibility is to have the United States retain part of the wages paid to new legal migrant workers in an investment account that is given back to the workers only when they return to their home countries.
As for the power of businesses over their recruits in the Bush plan, Mr. Kapur says that employees should be required to work for their sponsoring company for only a limited time, and then be allowed to look for other jobs.