Creating avenues for legal migration through self-petitioning

Learn more about Laura Collins.
Laura Collins
Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative
George W. Bush Institute
Cristobal Ramón
Guest Author

The steady rise in individuals requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border over the last decade illustrates one of the core problems with our immigration system: There aren’t enough ways to immigrate to the United States without a sponsor.   

Self-petitioning immigration programs are an important tool for a functioning, robust legal immigration system. Unfortunately, the current U.S. self-petitioning programs suffer from the same ills as the rest of the immigration system – inflexibility, poor processing, backlogs, and underfunded agencies. 

Policymakers should consider the following steps to ensure that future legislative efforts to incorporate a merit-based system into the U.S. immigration process will establish channels that can successfully handle any potential increases in the number of applicants.   

  • Congress should build flexibility into the selection process for employment-based self-petition programs.   
  • Congress must build mechanisms to address an increase in applications in self-petitioning systems.   
  • Congress should appropriate funds to ensure U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can effectively process immigration applications in a timely fashion.   

The above recommendations would help implement mechanisms for a proposed self-petition pathway on the employment side. But the U.S. already has a robust self-petitioning system on the humanitarian side given the current asylum laws. Asylum in the United States can work more effectively by doing the following:   

  • Congress should properly fund the agencies that will adjudicate the asylum cases, especially those coming from the border.   
  • The executive branch and Congress should reform asylum processes, not asylum eligibility.   
  • The executive branch should explore closer collaboration with other countries which can accept migrants.   

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