It is often said that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants, and no place in the union embodies this sentiment more than the city of Miami.
More than 50 percent of Miami-Dade County residents are foreign born, an astounding statistic when compared to the national average of 13. Such a large presence of international residents provides Miami with a significant advantage when it comes to accommodating global citizens.
With immigration reform hanging in the balance at the federal level, Miami’s government leaders need to encourage the adoption of an immigration policy that is beneficial for the city and sustainable for the nation.
One intriguing proposal: On Jan. 23, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan announced a plan to help revitalize Detroit by asking for an allotment of 50,000 EB-2 visas over the next five years for immigrants who would live and work in Detroit. EB-2 visas are given to individuals with advanced degrees and skills in efforts to attract the very best talent to the United States.
With its location and reputation as a mecca for international commerce, Miami should attempt to enact a similar request to entice top professionals to come to South Florida. This would provide a boost to the fledgling tech scene in Miami, as well as add valuable workers to the already strong health care and financial service industries.
The need for immigration reform has never been more urgent. According to a recent feature in The Economist, 369,000 undocumented migrants were removed from America in 2013, a nine-fold increase from 1993. Additionally, federal spending on immigration enforcement in 2012 outweighed the amount of spending allocated to all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. This disparity reflects the numerous economic inefficiencies contained in American immigration policies.
Gridlock in Washington, however, is preventing progress on this issue. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has taken the lead on promoting a revised immigration system “based more on economics, job skill and merit than on family connection.” Such a policy is just what Miami needs to further strengthen its economic presence in the U.S.
When a system is broken, it is essential that steps be taken to fix it. Given the current status of immigration policy, many of these changes must come from Washington. But this does not mean Miami should not take initiative to influence a reformative outcome.
Providing entrance to immigrants who have specialized skills can positively impact the local economy. And as a city of immigrants, Miami not only has a right to weigh in, but an obligation.
Paul Ryan is majoring in economics and finance.