Devising and implementing a sound and sustainable immigration policy in 2014 is crucial for America’s economy, its foreign diplomacy, and its national security. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has stated in two reports on U.S. immigration policy in 2009 and 2013 that “the United States needs a fundamental overhaul of its immigration laws.” According to the CFR reports, the high level of illegal immigration in the country is increasingly damaging to U.S. national interests—”[it] diminishes respect for the law, creates potential security risks, weakens labor rights, strains U.S. relations with its Mexican neighbor, and unfairly burdens public education and social services in many states.” But the CFR reports also contend that “no enforcement effort will succeed properly unless the legal channels for coming to the United States can be made to work better.” Therefore, “the U.S. government must invest in creating a working immigration system that alleviates long and counterproductive backlogs and delays, and ensures that whatever laws are enacted by Congress are enforced thoroughly and effectively.”

The benefits of a sound and sustainable U.S. immigration policy include: economic growth and development, job creation, increased international trade and foreign direct investment, improved foreign affairs, and strengthened national security. For example, the benefit of increased international trade and foreign direct investment leads to increased capital investments in the U.S. including labor capital, financial capital, and knowledge capital, which leads to job creation, economic growth and development, as well as strengthening foreign affairs and national security interests. There is “empirical evidence that immigration and foreign direct investment (FDI) are complementary and that immigration leads to increased FDI and lowers the cost of international transactions.”

Researcher Hisham Foad, asserts that when people migrate from one country to another, they bring with them not only their own labor and capital, but also a social network connected to their native country. Through these social networks, some of the barriers to international investment (political risk, asymmetric information) may be lowered. Immigrants serve as a bridge over which capital may more easily flow between their native and current countries. Foad explains that immigration lowers the cost of international transactions, has a positive effect on exports back to the immigrants’ native countries, and lowers the cost of doing business with the immigrants’ native countries. He also asserts that labor and capital move in the same direction, labor migration into the U.S. leads to increased capital migration into the U.S. He concludes that skilled immigrants will have a larger effect on FDI since they bring with them greater information and influence. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) agrees with researcher Foad. The CFR proposes that “reforming the cumbersome visa and citizenship process for immigrants–particularly skilled foreign workers in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields–is a priority to ensure that the country retains its competitiveness in the global economy.”

The CFR urges Congress and the Obama administration to move ahead with immigration reform legislation that achieves three critical goals:

(1) Reforms the legal immigration system so that it operates more efficiently, responds more accurately to labor market needs, and enhances U.S. competitiveness;

(2) Restores the integrity of immigration laws through an enforcement regime that strongly discourages employers and employees from operating outside that legal system, secures America’s borders, and levies significant penalties against those who violate the rules; and

(3) Offers a fair, humane, and orderly way to allow many of the roughly twelve million migrants currently living illegally in the United States to earn the right to remain legally.

The debate on immigration policy will continue in 2014. Congress understands that devising and implementing a sound and sustainable immigration policy in 2014 is crucial for America’s economy, its foreign diplomacy, and its national security.  I expect bipartisan reforms to be forthcoming in 2014.