Immigration

Compassion for migrants and enforcement of national immigration and border control laws are not mutually exclusive.

Summary

  • Compassion for migrants and enforcement of national immigration and border control laws are not mutually exclusive.
  • Immigration law must be clear, disincentivize illegal entry, and allow simply, quicker process for legal entry.
  • When we have a conversation about immigration, we need to be sure we make a clear distinction between immigrants who do the right thing and enter this country legally and those who have broken the law.
  • The U.S. is experiencing a serious problem of illegal immigration, which has several consequences, including public safety, security, economic, cultural, administrative, social, and humanitarian. The problem cannot be ignored and must be properly addressed.
  • Current immigration law is extremely complex, convoluted, and bureaucratic. Immigration reform is needed and must center on simplifying and streamlining the legal immigration process, based on the needs of the nation, and must include a temporary worker program to meet economic demands.
  • The first step, necessarily, is to secure the border. This is a primary role and duty of government.
  • The United States is governed by Rule of Law, rather than arbitrary rule by an individual or body. This means that we as a society make laws via an established process, and those laws then govern society. The system depends on properly established laws being enforced, otherwise the legal structure becomes arbitrary, and rule of law is eroded.
  • People who are in the US illegally have broken the law and they need to face a penalty for that, but we must address that process realistically and with compassion; a mass round up of illegal aliens would be neither feasible nor moral, and would require a massive police state; on the other hand, renewed blanket amnesty will serve only to exacerbate the problem, incentivize further illegal entries, and undermine the rule of law and the immigration system as a whole.
  • Immigration reforms must be fair, just, and compassionate, recognizing the traditional American approach to welcoming refugees and legal immigrants, and that many illegal immigrants are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Issue Background

One of the most contentious and emotional political issues in America today is immigration. Immigration policy, illegal immigration, border control, and immigration reform are all charged with emotions from both ends of the political spectrum.

The crux of the issue is that America is a nation of immigrants, and a democracy founded on Christian values of compassion, freedom and generosity. America is also governed by rule of law, and a sovereign country with a shared culture, economic structure, political identity, and value system, all of which combine to make the United States exceptional and appealing to immigrants.

On one hand are people who believe America is a nation founded in large part on the principle of the “rule of law,” meaning that instead of being subject to arbitrary rule by a king, dictator, party apparatus or other body which makes up their own rules on whim, all Americans agree to be subject to a codified set of rules, established by a due process, and to which all are under authority. Therefore, the concept of millions of people breaking the law without consequence – or even ultimately being rewarded for it by being granted citizenship within the society whose laws they broke – undermines the very foundation of our society.

On the other hand are those who see people – entire families – living in the shadows, rather than being granted status and being integrated into society. Many who came here illegally own businesses and are part of the economy. Children who were brought here illegally as infants are now in school and going to college. They have worked hard and obeyed the law after entering, and they want the opportunity to experience the American dream and contribute to our nation. It’s not fair to force people to live underground when they are guilty of no more of a crime than wanting a better life for their family. In many cases, their illegal entry was occasioned by the labyrinthian immigration laws that make legal entry difficult, lengthy and complicated.

Complicating matters further is the reality of politics. As little as a decade ago, many Democratic activists and politicians were vocally opposed to illegal immigration, on the grounds that the economic impacts generally hurt American workers, depressed wages, and strained the welfare state. However, it has since been recognized that Hispanics, generally, vote for Democrats by a two to one margin. If those who are here illegally (who happen to be predominantly Hispanic) are made citizens, and great numbers of migrants from Hispanic countries are allowed unfettered entry, it would fundamentally alter American politics by giving the Democratic party a major boost of support.

Underlying the entire question of immigration policy is concern for national security, public safety, and the threat of criminal exploitation of a porous border and lax enforcement.

In recognizing that illegal immigration is a genuine problem from a security, public safety, economic, cultural, and practical point of view, the first order of business obviously is to secure the border sufficiently to stop, or at least slow the influx of, illegal entries.

Once that is accomplished, reform of our overly bureaucratic and cumbersome immigration policy must be pursued. Immigration reform must be centered on simplifying and streamlining the process of legal immigration, and base immigration on the needs and capacity of the nation, eliminate arbitrary lotteries, and impose reasonable limits on “chain”, or family-based migration beyond immediate family.

A major component of the immigration issue is that there is an economic need in some parts of the country for migrant labor; therefore reform must also address this, and provide for a system of temporary legal labor.

Finally, reform must address the issue of illegal aliens already in the country, including those who were brought across the border as children. The approach adopted must be realistic, humane, and compassionate, while recognizing that a society’s law must be enforced.

Governing Principle

The primary principle involved is the Rule of Law. We as a nation are governed by a codified set of laws arrived at through an established democratic process. No one can choose which of our nation’s laws to obey or not without proper legal consequence, and our political leaders cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce or not.

Another principle involved is that of the Proper Role of Government. It is the first duty and role of government to protect the rights and property of its citizens. In addition, Congress has the authority, granted in the Naturalization and Define and Punish clauses of the U.S. Constitution, to regulate immigration into the country.

Finally, long-standing American traditions like Christian Compassion, Family Values, and American Exceptionalism must always help guide the discussion.

Solutions

  • Secure the US-Mexico border to slow the influx of illegal immigrants by the most efficient, effective, feasible, and cost-effective manner, and provide sufficient resources to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Provide sufficient resources to CBP and local law enforcement to ensure border control and immigration enforcement is both effective and humane.
  • Reform the immigration system to make legal immigration more efficient, orderly, and less complicated, to disincentivize illegal crossings, and ensure we know who is immigrating.
  • Base immigration thresholds on the economic needs and capacity of the nation.
  • Eliminate the visa lottery and place reasonable limits on “chain” or extended family-based migration.
  • Reform the work visa program to leverage 21st century technology and make it easier for employers and employees to obtain a visa.
  • Expand E-Verify to provide the private sector additional tools to ensure workers are following the rules, reducing the need for excessive government that otherwise is tasked with enforcing immigration laws.
  • Establish an effective, enforceable temporary worker program to meet local economic needs and provide status for temporary workers.
  • Create a process to allow illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows, accept a reasonable penalty, and receive a work visa. Offer path to permanent residence following imposition of the penalty, for those without any further criminal activity, or subsequent illegal crossings.

Key Statistics

  • DHS estimates that 12.1 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States in January 2014, compared to 11.6 million in 2010 and 11.8 million in 2007 (U.S. Dept of Homeland Security)
  • S. accounts for 4.4% of the world population yet takes in 1/5 of immigrants worldwide. (Migration Policy Institute)
  • 7 million immigrants in U.S. in 2016 (MPI)
  • Immigrants and their U.S. born children make up 27% of the U.S. population (MPI)
  • In 1850, immigrants made up 10% of population; in 1970 it was 5%, it is currently around 13% (MPI)
  • 45% of immigrants are of Hispanic origin (MPI)
  • 49% of immigrants over 18 years of age are English Language Proficient (MPI)
  • 11 million illegal immigrants in U.S. in 2013; 71% from Mexico and Central America (MPI)
  • 13% of Americans are foreign-born (Federation for American Immigration Reform)
  • The population of illegal immigrants in the US is estimated to be between 11,200,000 and 11,900,000 (Pew Hispanic Center / FAIR)
  • The estimated annual cost of illegal immigrants is $84 billion (FAIR)
  • About half of that goes for K-12 education. (FAIR)
  • The United States has received 820,090 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 58,238 refugees in fiscal year 2012. (FAIR)
  • There are about 800,000 foreign students attending post-secondary school in the United States. (FAIR)
  • In 2011, 327,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents. (The Fiscal Times)
  • The annual estimated cost of taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants is $4.3 billion, as of 2010. (Center for Immigration Studies)
  • Latinos make up 11% of all eligible voters nationwide. This is up from 9% in 2006. (Pew Hispanic Center)
  • In Colorado, Latinos make up 14% of eligible voters.
  • 62% of Hispanics support the government controlling gun ownership. 45% of the total population shares this view.
  • 49% of Hispanics support making marijuana legal, compared to 53% of the total population.
  • A plurality of Hispanics (48%) believe abortion should be legal in most cases, as opposed to 44% who believe it should be illegal in most cases. 52% of all Americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases.
  • 84% of Hispanics support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10. This is higher than the 73% of the total population that supports increasing the minimum wage.
  • Three-quarters (74%) of Latino eligible voters are U.S. born and 26% are immigrants who hold U.S. citizenship.
  • Some 17% of Hispanic eligible voters hold a bachelor’s degree or more. By comparison, 33% of white, 20% of black and 48% of Asian eligible voters hold a bachelor’s degree or more.
  • Among Hispanic eligible voters, 60% are of Mexican origin, 13% Puerto Rican origin, 5% Cuban origin, 4% Dominican origin and 3% are of Salvadoran origin.
  • Hispanics are 17% of the U.S. population, and are 56% of total U.S. population growth since the last decade. (Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/avidan/2014/11/09/11-marketing-trends-to-watch-for-in-2015/)
  • S. Hispanic purchasing power exceeds $1 trillion and is expected to grow by 2017 80% faster than non-Hispanic. (Forbes)