An Immigration Reform Strategy That Includes Investments in Skills for All

Jared Bernstein looks at the impact of immigration on poverty in the U.S., and concludes that it doesn’t have much of an impact on poverty trends over time:

The fact that immigration isn’t placing much pressure on poverty rate trends suggests that if we want to reduce those trends, we’re less likely to get there by trying to reduce immigration.  A far better strategy would be to improve the earnings capacity–the skills, the availability of decent paying jobs, the work supports—available to all low-wage working families, regardless of their nativity. (my emphasis)

This was more-or-less the premise we started from when I worked with the National Skills Coalition on this set of immigration reform recommendations. That is, we looked at  immigration reform as an opportunity to begin overhauling the federal workforce development system across the board (including investing in more skills training and adult education). In fact, immigration reform seemed to me at the time to be the best chance to get something resembling workforce development legislation passed in the near term (even if prospects for WIA look a bit better right now), because, at least in the case of last year’s Senate bill, there were some significant dollars attached for education and training.

I also wonder if embedding immigration reform inside a broader education and workforce development strategy might be helpful from a political perspective, by placing it in the context of a political issue with a broader constituency. It might also give some structure by which to diffuse the argument that immigration reforms will result in immigrants taking away jobs from U.S.-born workers. (I know that a lot of people have made the case for immigration reform in the context of broader economic growth , but I’m not sure among that this connects very well with the general public in the way that jobs and job training does.)