By Ben A. Rissing and Emilio J. Castilla
Immigration reform has returned to the forefront of U.S. political debate as a result of President Barack Obama’s November 2014 executive order. Yet, proposed immigration reform measures have not attended to the process by which immigrant applicants are assessed – And many aspects of U.S. immigrant evaluation systems are opaque and discretionary.
In a study recently published in the American Sociological Review, we examine the first stage of one such work authorization process, the labor certification program, which is required for the granting of most employment-based green cards in the United States. We find that there is substantial variation in approval outcomes associated with foreign workers’ country of citizenship. Specifically, while 90.5 percent of workers from Asia are approved by government agents, only 66.8 percent of foreign workers from Latin America are approved. These disparities exist even after controlling for salary, job title, job skill level requirement, location, industry, and prior visa. However, when applications are evaluated with detailed employment-relevant information obtained through government application audits, we find that approvals are equally likely for immigrant workers from the vast majority of citizenship groups. Read More