Peter Choi


Despite immigration law’s notorious complexity, public debate on immigration reform has historically ignored basic questions of why and how the current laws should be simplified. Instead, discussion has often focused on substantive proposals—most commonly regarding legalization and border enforcement—without reference to the impact of these proposals on the legal immigration structure. This article emphasizes that any durable immigration reform must take steps to free the immigration system from the intricacies that define it today. The article begins by overviewing the basic features of the modern global economy, their implications for immigration law, and why these implications compel an immigration system based on simple rules. Then, borrowing from the literature on business strategy and organizational design, the article applies to the current immigration system a basic three-step framework for developing simple rules. In the first step—Setting the Objective—the article argues that family reunification, the primary objective of the current system, does not adequately acknowledge the global economy in which the American immigration system operates. As economic conditions affecting the United States have evolved since fifty years ago when family reunification emerged as the cornerstone of American immigration policy, the focus of the American immigration system must be reoriented towards competing in the global economy. In the second step—Identifying a Bottleneck—the article hones in on the second and third categories of the current five-category preference system for admitting employment-based immigrants. Examining the unique obstacles and complexities facing immigration under the EB-2 and EB-3 categories, the article identifies these categories as a focal point on which any effort to simplify American immigration law should take aim at the outset. Finally, in the third step—Formulating the Rules—the article argues that from the perspective of simplicity, a provisional visa program proposed by many commentators offers a legal system that is user-created, repetitively applicable, and easily adaptable—features that are necessary for the effective practical application of simple rules. As such, provisional visas provide a structurally viable replacement for the procedures currently used to admit immigrants who fall under the EB-2 and EB-3 categories. The overarching purpose of this article is to emphasize that sustainable reform of American immigration law must not only make substantive revisions, but also initiate a process of structural simplification. The article offers a conceptual starting point for this process by applying to the current immigration system a basic business-strategy framework for developing simple rules.



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