Essays

Don't Close the Golden Door: Our Noisy Debate on Immigration and Its Deathly Silence on Development

5/27/08
Michael Clemens and Sami Bazzi
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Throughout history, international migration has been a central tool in the battle against global poverty and inequality, but the recent heated political debate over immigration reform has largely failed to capture the important ways in which the international movement of people shapes the development process. In this essay, research fellow Michael Clemens and co-author Sami Bazzi outline five major reasons why migration is a development issue in today’s world, and they outline an agenda by which the next U.S. administration could make U.S. migration policy work for the United States, for countries of origin, and for the migrants themselves.

After considering the often immovable ideas and political constraints surrounding international migration, now and throughout our history, Clemens and Bazzi make the case for a few crucial and substantive actions the next administration can take to spread and enhance the positive effects of migration.

One fundamental principle of action, they argue, should be that movement and linkages between the poorest countries and the United States are at the heart of the global development process. This guides a five-point strategy for the next administration:

  • forge a broad understanding of our tradition of opportunity;
  • craft an economically sound policy toward guest workers;
  • greatly raise or eliminate caps on high-skill worker visas;
  • do our fair share for refugees; and,
  • know who is moving in and out.