I believe people everywhere in the world ought to be free to choose where they want to live and work. In addition, quite apart from that moral argument, I believe free movement of labor makes everyone better off by improving the utilization of the scarcest resource: Human capital.
The U.S. immigration system is a mess. Most American citizens are utterly unfamiliar with the particular ways the system makes it hard for decent, hard-working, law-abiding foreigners to come to the U.S. to work.
There is a simple way to improve the situation.
These recommendations would work for every country.
First, secure the borders: A country without borders is no country: It's a land mass with people on it.
Second, grant no additional rights to people who have already broken the rules.
Third, enact comprehensive, real immigration reform:
1. Get rid of the myriad visa categories: Foreigners in a country need to be grouped in to no more than three categories:
Immigrants (those who intend to move to a country permanently)
Temporary visitors (such as students, tourists, ship crew etc)
2. For immigration requests, charge a non-refundable application fee that is equal to the poverty line. The current poverty line for an individual is $10,830 in the U.S. So, for a family of three, the application fee would be $32,490. There is no need for a sliding scale here. All applicants who pass background checks after depositing the non-refundable fee, get to live in the U.S. for a five year probationary period and pay a fee equal to the poverty line during every year of the probationary period (parents pay the same fee for every child they are bringing with them).
3. If, at the end of the five year probationary period, the individual has remained in good standing, allow them to extend their residency by another five years or apply for citizenship.
A simple formula should determine how an immigrant's fees are allocated among federal, state and local governments. Local governments should not get any money for non-paying foreigners.
This simple, straightforward system would ensure orderly immigration.
It would undermine criminal human smuggling networks who charge similar fees but make their clients travel inside 120°F trailers like animal feed rather than in air-conditioned buses or on airplanes.
It would ensure that those who earn technical degrees at U.S. educational institutions stay in the U.S. if there is enough demand for their services and it would ensure people in highly sought out professions such as plumbing and landscaping can come in to fulfill demand for their services.
That is: There is no chance such a simple and straightforward system would be implemented.
Politicians who see immigrants as a big amorphous mass of votes will pass some sort of amnesty bill which will, among its other nasty effects, lead human smugglers and the associated criminal networks to raise the fees they charge, but not to orderly immigration and integration.