Workers’ ability to change employers at will promotes efficiency in the labor market and helps prevent employer abuse. If employers underpay, overwork, or otherwise mistreat workers, the workers can leave and the employers eventually lose their workforce or cease their unscrupulous practices. The corollary, of course, is that when workers are not free to change jobs, their employers have undue leverage over wages and working conditions.
A central problem with current high-skilled immigration programs is that they bind workers too tightly to a single employer. Even though most employers do not intentionally misuse their leverage over these workers, the power differential it creates can affect both foreign workers and similarly situated U.S. workers. The net result can be a slight depression of wages
To balance the playing field for workers and employers, Congress should:
- Establish a statutory grace period for fired workers to find a new job rather than maintaining the current rules, which make them immediately deportable and subject to additional penalties for unlawful presence.
- Revise the rules regarding the permanent residence process to allow sponsored workers to change to a different employer earlier in the process.
- Permit expanded categories of high-skilled temporary workers to self-petition for permanent residence. One possibility that Congress should consider is to authorize self-petitioning after a certain time, such as 18 months. Another possibility is to authorize self-petitioning for individuals working in high-employment industries with, for example less than 2 percent unemployment.
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