The debate about comprehensive immigration reform took a new turn in 2009. Driven in part by the recession and by concern about unemployment among American workers, some reform advocates are advancing the idea that immigration quotas should be set by a commission made up of experts and stakeholders.

IW shares the concern for unemployed U.S. workers and believes employers should make every effort to hire Americans before they consider foreign workers. But we are skeptical of proposals to set immigration quotas by commission.

We do not believe the economic data is available that would allow a commission of experts or stakeholders to make real-time decisions about where we need immigrants and where they would most benefit the economy – what economic sectors or what regions of the country. We're also skeptical that it would be possible to insulate a commission from political influence – and nothing would be worse than a politicized body that was not accountable to voters.

As business owners, we believe that 21st century immigration is driven largely by market forces. We think it's a mistake for the U.S. government to try to fight the dynamism of the world economy – we believe immigration ceilings should be designed to accommodate the influx determined by supply and demand. And we believe the test of any body charged with setting quotas, whether Congress or a commission, should be how well it aligns those ceilings with the fluctuations of U.S. labor-market needs.

Would a commission make our immigration system more responsive to the market – or less? If the answer is less, it's a bad idea – for immigrants, employers and the American economy.


ImmigrationWorks, Future flow talking points.

American Council on International Personnel, Examining Proposals to Create a New Commission on Employment-Based Immigration, June 2009.

American Immigration Lawyers Association, AILA Positions Statement on Business Immigration Reform Principles, July 2009.

National Foundation for American Policy, A Commission to Regulate Immigration? A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Not Come, May 2009.

Economic Policy Institute, Immigration for Shared Prosperity - A Framework for Comprehensive Reform, April 2009.

AFL-CIO and Change to Win, Unified Immigration Reform Framework, April 2009.

Migration Policy Institute, Harnessing the Advantages of Immigration for a 21st Century Economy, May 2009.