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Scott Brown's Pork Barrel Visa

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America's national politicians are usually above blatant vote-bank focused identity politics. That might not apply to Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

Mr. Brown is facing a tough election this fall. Many voters in Massachusetts are of Irish descent. So, Mr. Brown is eager to pass a bill (S.2005, IRE Act) that will annually provide a quota of 10,500 E-3 employment visas for citizens of Ireland.

Currently, the E-3 visa is only available (many argue unfairly) to Australians. An E-3 visa is generally considered a generous employment visa as spouses of visa holders are permitted to work and the visa can be perpetually renewed every two years.

It is hard to see how Mr. Brown's latest E-3 visa will help America. America should be attracting the best immigrants from around the world, not appeasing Mr. Brown's voters. Here are some facts: the Republic of Ireland's population is less than 5 million. 10,500 visas represent ~0.2% of the total Irish population (and this does not include dependents who would additionally obtain related visas)! In contrast, India and China are home to more than 2.5 billion people, with huge numbers of highly skilled workers, but only get a part of the 65,000 to 120,000 employment visas issued in a year for the rest of the world. Any individual who can analytically and mathematically justify Mr. Brown's argument, that this E-3 visa is a good thing for America, is likely worthy of a Fields Medal and some serious scrutiny.

This story gets worse. In jostling currently underway among senators, it is widely believed that this E-3 visa provision is being linked to the passage of the House Resolution (HR) 3012, Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011. HR 3012 seeks to make the green card system of the US fairer by eliminating country quotas to make it first-come first-serve. HR 3012 was passed nearly unanimously in the House in 2011 with only 3% of the members opposing it and was endorsed in essence by the White House in its recent release (See Section 3). It is still awaiting passage in the Senate.

It is ironic that the fate of a fairness-enhancing bill is linked to a pork barrel visa bill which is utterly unfair and self-serving. Further, special visa carve-outs for countries like Ireland and Australia, and the existence of non-population-proportioned green card quotas that HR 3012 seeks to fix, sound woefully like the erstwhile racist immigration policies of Australia (White Australia Policy) and the USA (Immigration Act of 1924) that were dismantled after World War 2.

Mr. Brown won his Massachusetts election on merit, not unfair quotas. In that spirit, he should let foreigners come to the US on their merit, not unfair quotas. He should also try and win his upcoming election on merit, not unfair quotas.

Dinkar has previously written about highly skilled immigration. Click here to read other articles by Dinkar.