Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. It’s now confirmed that it’s not a crime for immigrants in the United States, even undocumented ones, to apply for jobs here.
That ruling dovetails with President Barack Obama’s recent decision to effectively forbid the deportation of upstanding young people who are in the United States illegally.
Immigration advocates rejoiced at both decisions, but neither the Supreme Court ruling nor Obama’s move resolves the economic dynamics that drive illegal immigration. Instead, they create a gray area for undocumented immigrants to live and work more safely here in the United States. The next logical step, reforming our guest-worker system to allow more non-citizens to work here outside of legal purgatory, would offer more protections to these workers and boost the economy, too.
For years, some immigration advocates and contrarian economists have argued that a formal effort to give jobs to foreign workers – even without citizenship – can help everybody. A guest-worker program might just be the most powerful tool to fight global poverty, and a chance to help economic conditions here at home, too, if we can embrace the counterintuitive but true idea that more foreign workers can help even when domestic workers are caught in high unemployment.
David McKenzie, lead economist of the World Bank’s development group, has, along with his fellow researchers, been examining the way migration affects migrants – not just the people they leave behind or the new communities they end up living in. They’ve found that improved labor mobility is by far the greatest way to give a leg up to low-income people around the globe.