How to Achieve Genuine Immigration Reform
By Peter J. Thomas and Charles Orndorff
There is broad agreement on the need for an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. Unfortunately, progress has been blocked by President Obama and the Senate Democratic majority, who insist that no immigration reform shall pass unless it also provides that illegal immigrants are granted amnesty.
What must be included in a successful immigration reform package?
First, the United States must secure the maximum achievable control over its borders (including better monitoring of those who enter legally on temporary visas). Additional steps to strengthen control of the border with Mexico should be made, but only on an experimental basis. These steps should be carefully monitored and measured to determine whether they achieve genuine results, and the evaluation should be carried out by a nonpartisan procedure which will allow all to have confidence in its conclusions. Merely spending more money must not, as proposed in last year’s Senate immigration bill, be followed by declaring the Mexican border secure without waiting to see what actually happens.
Second, a higher priority must be given to depriving illegal aliens of access to jobs in the United States. Employers must be enabled to determine whether job applicants are legal residents, and must be punished for deliberate violations. If jobs are no longer available, and no longer draw illegal immigration, that would be the best form of border security.
Third, we need a reliable process for determining whether specific types of jobs can be filled by Americans or genuinely require increased legal immigration. We all remember how surprised Obama was in 2012 when a woman told him that her engineer husband could not find work. A puzzled Obama responded that employers were telling him that there were no unemployed engineers, and it was absolutely necessary to bring them in from abroad. The current system inspires neither trust nor confidence, and news reports about long lines of job applicants after a business has been raided and its illegal employees arrested demonstrates the need for improvement. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Senate-passed immigration bill would reduce wages for both low-income and high-income workers, indicating that even the push for more legal immigration may be motivated more by the desire to bring in workers at lower wages, and not at filling an unmet need.
Finally, illegal aliens must not be given amnesty, and amnesty should be defined as allowing them to become legal residents of the United States. Merely refusing to permit them to become citizens does not change the fact that legal residency is at the heart of amnesty.
Immigration reform need not, and should not, be entangled with the question of amnesty. Those who broke US laws by entering illegally, obtaining jobs illegally, and illegally using false documents or failing to pay taxes should not be granted the right to remain and work. Amnesty would make a mockery of the rule of law, rewarding the lawbreakers while punishing those who followed proper procedures and waited their turn. Furthermore, if effective immigration reform is adopted, the illegal population will gradually shrink as those who leave are no longer replaced by new arrivals.
Immigration reform should not be impossible. It merely requires a commitment to common-sense solutions, combined with measurements and evaluations that inspire trust rather than skepticism.