I think when considering whether or not to allow immigrants to come work in a country, we need to consider Catholic social teaching. We need to build an economy that serves humans and also maintains a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. Often times, immigration discussions are framed in two extremes. On one side, preventing immigration is seen as the wealthy U.S ignoring the plight of the poor in vulnerable and an affront to solidarity. On the other side, immigration is seen as harming the economy and state that is working to serve its citizens effectively. Foreign workers replacing tech workers at Disney is a prime example of this.
An immigration system that respects both the rights of immigrants and the rights of native born workers is very difficult to achieve. I think the idea of H1-B visas where you can hire a worker if no one in the U.S is qualified to do the job respects both native and foreign workers, when the system isn’t being subverted. Similarly, low wage immigrant workers who take jobs native citizens aren’t interested in doing is a system that builds an economy working for everyone. I would love to see an option for immigrants who are coming to the U.S to open a new business, as they are building an economy that works for both them and native citizens. But in our not so ideal world, we struggle to balance respecting the economic rights of native and foreign workers.
I do not think a global meritocracy system for jobs and completely open borders achieves an economy that strikes this balance. For instance, Forbes notes that Indian tech workers brought in through H1-b visa loopholes “were paid “significantly less” than the New York market rate”, which New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says “undercuts New York workers”. The corrupted H1-b visa program turns the U.S into an open border system. It may help immigrant workers, but at the expense of native workers. This is unjust. The economy and tech companies may be getting good labor at a lower rate, but they are undercutting their purpose of supporting their workers and communities when they take actions like these. Companies have a moral obligation to care for the communities they are involved in. One level of community certainly is the national community. They can also choose to support the international communities and workers in different ways besides displacing workers. Collaborating on projects and sharing knowledge so Indian workers can make their communities a better place is a superior option.
It’s often noted how much immigrants contribute to the U.S economy. The Atlantic writes that ” immigration, on the whole, bolsters the workforce and adds to the nation’s overall economic activity”. They also note that “immigration isn’t without its negative effects, especially on Americans who lack a high school diploma”. This just demonstrates how difficult striking a balance is. We also need to remember that these immigrants could be working to improve the communities they are from. While they are leaving for better opportunities, this is still lost production for the places they leave. In short, immigration is a difficult balancing game to make an economy that works for everyone.