Canada’s provincial-nominee program, while not perfect, avoids the economically meaningless distinctions between skilled and unskilled workers that bedevil the employment-based U.S. immigration laws. It also puts in place incentives to treat foreign workers not as foes but as friends whose labor and skills are vital to the economy. …

As for the unskilled, a guest-worker program for Mexican labor that would make it easier for migrants to get temporary visas for seasonal work is gaining traction.

Such changes might address the most egregious defects in immigration policies, yet the discussion shows how behind the curve the U.S. is compared with other countries. Canada and Australia, for example, skip the temporary work-visa step completely and offer fast-track permanent residencies to highly skilled workers and their spouses before they even arrive in the country. Australia offers almost as many employment-based green cards as the U.S., even though the American population is 14 times bigger.