Bloomberg has an interesting piece today arguing that Canada shows the US a way forward on immigration policy: states should be allowed to sponsor any immigrant they like. Obviously there are reasonable bounds: the Canadian federal government performs basic health and criminal background checks on prospective immigrants. But beyond that, any province of Canada can invite anyone it likes to settle in it, up to a federally-determined quota.
The appeal of this is that states which don’t want immigrants don’t have to use their quotas. An interesting question is whether immigrants might settle in another state and later on internally migrate to more restrictive states, and the piece doesn’t address this. But given that people tend not to want to immigrate to areas that demonstrate they don’t welcome immigrants, I see no reason to believe this would be a major problem.
The other main point made is that this presents a tidy solution to the problem of determining how to handle skilled versus unskilled labour: there are no guest worker visas, and rather each province invites immigrants based on its own needs. In the US case, I take this to mean that New York would probably invite plenty of high-skilled finance workers, while Idaho might invite potato farmers.
A problem I see with this is that this doesn’t consider the fact that “guest worker” situations might apply reasonably well to some people. It’s quite common to want to work in another country for a few years, without actually desiring to settle there. One could just as easily make provision for states to sponsor easily-renewable work visas, in addition to regular immigrant visas.
In spite of this, it seems to me that Canada is on the right track: giving provinces a stake in immigration policy gives their governments additional levers to pull to support their economic and social progress. While the federal model may not work for all countries, those organised under a federal system of government should at least consider adoption of the Canadian model of state-sponsored immigration.