State laws keep immigrants out of licensed occupations

A dentist checks a patient’s teeth.
A dentist checks a patient’s teeth.
Photo by H Shaw on Unsplash

Imagine you are born outside of the United States. You work hard, get an education, and work in a well-paying job. After 10 years of experience, you decide you want to move to the United States. You would like to keep working in the same field you’ve been in for years, but you are not sure of the necessary steps to have your foreign license recognized within the United States. Even though you are fluent in English you can’t find clear answers. And the state laws differ, so a solution for one place doesn’t apply to another. Amid the uncertainty, you decide to make the move, only to learn you won’t be able to work in your field, despite your past decade gaining expertise working in the industry. …

Immigrants enrich US culture

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Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash.

Can you imagine a man clever enough to make the devil jealous? In an Irish legend, “Stingy Jack” earned that distinction.

Jack caught the devil’s attention from his reputation as a drunkard with a silver-tongue. One dark night in the countryside, the devil appeared in front of Jack on his walk to the pub to take his soul to Hell. Buying time, Jack invited the devil to join him for his last drink.

The devil and Stingy Jack sat down at the pub and ran up the tab. It was, after all, Jack’s last chance. But when it was time to go, Jack’s wallet was empty. Jack had an idea. He told the devil to turn into a silver coin that they could pay with. Jack would settle the bill and then wait for the devil outside. The devil could jump out of the till as soon as the barman was satisfied that Jack wasn’t drinking-and-dashing. The devil — always up for pulling one over on those making an honest living — obliged and turned into a silver coin in Jack’s hand. …

Alternatives are better for public health and taxpayers

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For most, COVID-19’s emergence has meant some level of distancing from friends and families. Yet for immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been difficult. Immigrant detention centers across the country have been hotspots for COVID-19. ICE has taken a few actions to mitigate risks, but there is more that it can do.

As of October 20, 661 current ICE detainees had tested positive. In total, 6,743 detainees have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the year. The 2020 fiscal year had more deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody than any year since 2005. …

Real economics in a satirical workplace

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NBC’s The Office

Hidetoshi Hasagawa, or Hide, is a warehouse worker in NBC hit comedy, The Office. Of course, fans may better know him as the number one heart surgeon in Japan. As Hide reveals, he left Japan to escape from the Yakuza after killing one of the Yakuza’s bosses. The warehouse foreman, Darryl Philbin, gave Hide a job working at Dunder Mifflin, something that Hide describes as saving his life.

The antics in The Office shouldn’t be taken too seriously, yet there’s an economic lesson in Hide’s life story. Maybe you’ve had an Uber driver who worked as a doctor or nurse before coming to the US. Like Hide, the driver has specialized training that’s not being put to work. …

Sanctuary protects vulnerable people

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More and more cities and states are adopting sanctuary policies. The extent of sanctuary’s spread is difficult to know, yet it’s clear from debates at city halls and state legislatures across the country that the idea is becoming more prevalent.

How sanctuary policies work varies from place to place. At root, sanctuary limits how local police officers can interact with federal immigration officials. For example, by directing law enforcement to not hold immigrants only on the basis of immigration-related offenses. …

Give workers a fresh start

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Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Senate Majority President Mitch McConnell hinted that the next COVID-19 aid package may come with strings attached. As he told reporters, “We’re not writing a check to send down to states to allow them to, in effect, finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.”

The specific area that McConnell pointed to was limiting legal liabilities surrounding COVID-19. However, there are a wealth of other possibilities to improve policies in the wake of the pandemic. A promising area relevant in all 50 states is occupational licensing reform.

Specifically, the next aid package should include requirements to reform occupational licensing as a condition for receiving federal funds. Licensing laws have outlived and outgrown their usefulness. Effective reforms can usher in a return to a thriving and vibrant economy. The best reform would be a state-level Fresh Start Initiative. The initiative, an idea from regulatory economists and based on current practice in some state agencies, creates a commission to evaluate regulations suspended during COVID-19. That commission then recommends permanent changes to state-level licensing regulations based on that evaluation. …

Suspending immigration is the wrong move

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Photo by Fabian Fauth on Unsplash

On Monday night, President Trump announced that he would sign an executive order halting immigration into the U.S. The 38-word tweet was short on details. Most immigration is stopped already, leaving rumor mills to spin as more information emerged from other sources. Trump’s motivation for further suspending immigration was clear–COVID-19 necessitates more restrictions to protect U.S. jobs.

There are good reasons to restrict immigration during a pandemic. To avoid spreading COVID-19, households across the country are limiting visits to grocery stores and physical visits with extended family, and immigration represents the same risk. And yet there are a lot of ways to restrict immigration, some will be worse than others. …

Half before the end of next week

Prison fence shown with razor wire.
Prison fence shown with razor wire.
Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

As of March 21, 2020, ICE holds 38,058 immigrants in detention centers across the country. Today, those immigrants are at substantial risk of contracting COVID-19, or the coronavirus.

To prevent a mass outbreak at detention centers, ICE needs to release half of those people as soon as possible.

We get how this proposal sounds. Detained individuals are generally considered dangerous. The word “detainee” conjures thoughts of prison bars and orange jumpsuits. Yet most detainees don’t fit this picture at all.

In fact, more than 50% of detainees on an average day have no criminal history. That makes at least half of the detainees excellent candidates for alternatives to detention, such as electronic monitoring systems or through requiring check-ins with officers. These alternatives, which ICE already uses for thousands of immigrants, can provide public safety as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19. …

Inclusive immigration policy can slow the spread of COVID-19

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Source: AP

On March 18, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it is delaying most of its removal operations because of COVID-19. Immigration activists and public policy researchers celebrated the move.

Early the next morning, however, Acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli set out to correct misunderstandings of the policy change. …

Crime, trust, and community in America

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Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Across the country, hundreds of cities, states, and counties are having the same conversation about sanctuary policies for immigrants. In December of 2019, Madison, Wisconsin, became a microcosm of that discussion. The conclusions that each jurisdiction across the U.S. reaches may have dramatic effects on US immigration policy.

The conversation in Madison was about a proposal to require that city police officers enforce federal immigration rules. Sanctuary policies vary, as it’s not a legal term with an accepted definition. In general, they specify ways police departments will work (or not work) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For example, ICE issues detainer requests to police departments that have arrested a person if they believe that person is subject to detainment and deportation. …


Josh T. Smith

I'm interested in energy issues, environmental policies, immigration questions, and almost everything else too.

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