Immigration Reform and the Urban Labor Force

Briggs Jr., Vernon M.
August 1991
Labor Law Journal;Aug91, Vol. 42 Issue 8, p537
Academic Journal
This article examines the impact of the immigration reform movement in the 1980s on the urban labor force in the U.S. The reform movement of the 1980s was a direct response to the accidental revival of mass immigration that began in the mid-1960s. Prior to the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, immigration which had been the nation's most important human resource development policy prior to the 1920s, had slipped into a state of relative dormancy. As of 1991, there is little synchronization of the immigrant flow and the demonstrated needs of urban labor markets. The labor market effects of the politically driven immigration system are twofold. Some immigrant workers do have human resource endowments that are quite congruent with urban labor market needs. They were usually admitted under the work-related preferences or they happen to have needed human capital characteristics even though they were admitted as family related immigrants or refugees. But most immigrants are not so qualified. For the majority, they must seek urban employment in the declining sectors of the goods-producing industries or the low-wage sectors of the expanding service sector. Immigration policy must become accountable for its economic consequences. Under existing circumstances, it should be a targeted and flexible policy that will be designed to admit only persons who can fill job vacancies that require significant skill preparation and educational investment.


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