Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Legal Immigrant's Take On The Immigration Debate

"Citizenship is the most precious gift that America can confer."  Ross Baker, Rutgers University

I'm an immigrant. My parents wisely brought me to America six decades ago. When I think about it (and that's often), I thank God they did.

As an immigrant, I certainly empathize with the millions of people around the world who want to enter this great country---legally (In particular, I have an understanding of why so many Hispanics want to come to America in addition to finding a job and raising a family. The fact is America is as Hispanic as it is Anglo-Saxon. It always has been. If you need proof, just look at all of our cities that have Hispanic names, e.g. Corpus Christi, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, etc. etc.).

But, as I've often said, we have a pathway to citizenship in place already. It's called "Legal Immigration."

Recently the U.S. Senate passed a bill that allows the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants (we really don't know the exact number) to get TEMPORARY legal status. This is where I have a major problem. There are currently approximately just under 5 million people waiting to immigrate to the United States lawfully. In some cases, many of these people have been waiting up to a decade or more. So the obvious question one is faced with answering: Is the Senate's bill fare to those already waiting on line for years?

In addition, there is the under performing economy. We currently have too much labor--- individuals who cannot find work. The official unemployment rate is about 7.6%. The underemployment rate now stands at 14.3%. That's a lot of people out of work trying to find work. In fact, it's about 20 million. So how does giving millions of illegal immigrants temporary legal status help those Americans who are currently out of work? It doesn't. It will make it much harder for them to find work.  Moreover, many economists believe it would also undercut the wages of  workers especially blue-collar workers.

The bill will also facilitate the hiring of foreign students. At first, you might ask what's the big deal. Try this on for size. If you go to the New Jersey shore now you will find mostly foreign students working on the boardwalks, in the gift shops and restaurants. They were able to come here before our students got out of school for the summer vacation. The result? American students have been unable to find summer employment down the shore. The jobs were already taken by foreign students.

The other question one has to ask is this: Do you trust the government with whatever immigration bill they eventually decide to pass? Why would you? We've already seen what is happening with ObamaCare. We also have a track record the last time similar legislation was passed.  In 1986, then Pres. Ronald Reagan signed an immigration bill. It was to call for tighter security on the Mexican border. It also made those immigrants who came to the U.S. prior to 1982 eligible for amnesty. Need I tell you what the outcome was of that bill? In fact, years later Reagan himself admitted  it was one of his biggest mistakes.

To start a pathway to citizenship for those who started the journey by  breaking the law, in my opinion, is immoral and unjust.

I would suggest several important propositions:
  • Enforce the laws we now have in place.
  • Serve those now waiting in line first.
  • Harden  and secure the borders (and that means defining what we mean by "secure." Just throwing more border patrol agents at the problem will not work. We need a very concise and detailed security plan. In my opinion, that should also include a fence).
  • Tighten up the visa system (One of the 9/11 hijackers was on a student visa and the rest were on tourist or business visas. Too many overstay their visas and then get lost in the crowd).
  • Hold sponsors accountable.
  • Make whatever law is passed responsive to the American economy.
  • And this will be a challenge, if not impossible: take politics out of the equation.  Right now, we see both parties boxing over potential voters.  Republicans know they have some serious demographic challenges to overcome (in the last two elections, Republicans received 27-31% of the Hispanic vote while Democrats received 67-71%). On the other hand, Democrats see a potential of maintaining the voting edge over Republicans with Hispanics.

We know immigrants come to America for more freedom and opportunity. And who can blame them? But a nation's sovereignty must be guarded. We do that with a set of rules and laws. If a nation does not do the most elementary work to secure its borders, then that's a nation that encounters the kind of outcomes we are currently dealing with today.

We need a common sense solution that encourages assimilation, protects our sovereignty and continues to offer countless opportunities for both Americans and legal immigrants. We can do it. After all, this is America.


Since this was posted, the number of illegal immigrant children entering the U.S. was approximately 50,000 up from about 4,000 in 2009. 

In addition, Republicans, like Democrats, have not done a damn thing about illegal immigration.