Introduce federalism to immigration reform

While states are debating whether to accommodate illegal child immigrants, I believe there is a window of opportunity now to introduce federalism to immigration policy. Congress can bypass the lengthy debates on the reform package by swiftly adding a new category of work visa that is solely sponsored by states. With these new work visas, immigrants are required to establish residence in the sponsoring state. In 3-5 years after living in the state, they can apply for green card if they have paid taxes and do not have criminal records.
 
This federalist approach has multiple dimensions of benefits. It helps the U.S. keep talented immigrants, grow labor force, and encourage economic development in sparsely populated states. The most sought-after work visa H-1B has been proven to be a bottleneck in keeping foreign talent and attracts the attention of immigration policy debate. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced in April that fiscal year 2015’s statuary cap of 65,000 visas has been reached. This has been a recurrence in the last few years. It would be great if Congress abolishes H-1B’s quota altogether, but reform on the H-1B has been tied to other more controversial items. This new state-sponsor category can bypass the debate and partially transfer the burden of immigration administration to states. After all, it is the states that bear both the benefits and costs of accepting new immigrants. If certain states are already burdened with immigrants’ social benefits and other problems, they can choose not to issue state-sponsored visas. On the other hand, if other states are in desperate need to grow population and labor force, they can elect to have their doors wide open to immigrants.
 
Sparsely-populated or geographically disadvantaged states face the perennial problem of brain drain and population exodus. To fight the trend, those states must attract not only out-of-state residents but also employers. Without new businesses created, immigrants to those states will have to leave eventually. With state-sponsored visas, states now have a better tool to lure employers to build new businesses. For instance, if Silicon Valley powerhouses fail to get their talented employees a work visa in California, they can start a subsidiary in a state that issues plenty of state-sponsored visas. Companies such as Google or Facebook do not have to send their workers overseas just to get around the immigration bottleneck. It is a win-win for both the employers and the states.
 
Even if the states choose to sponsor work visas for unskilled immigrants, they benefit as well. Aging, rural population is need of care and injection of new labor force to sustain the economy. Since immigrants with state-sponsored visas have to pay taxes before applying for green card, they most likely will work instead of receiving social benefits. It is a easy net-plus calculation for these states. Eventually, some of these immigrants will leave the states after they receive their green card, but those who choose to stay will become the backbone of rural America.
 
The Founding Fathers created a federalist government to allow more participation in politics and to use states as a laboratory to experiment on new policy ideas. It is a great waste of opportunity if we do not take up the federalist approach to the immigration reform right now.