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Immigration Reform: An American Challenge

By on May 23, 2013 | 7 comments

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We are a nation of immigrants. We have no single ethnic heritage, no single religion, so Americans must be united by recognition that we are all bound by the rule of law. We are also a forgiving nation who does not want to turn away hard-working families away or see them separated.

Therefore, we are capable of building a path that demonstrates both compassion and that that illegal actions have consequences.

As the Gang of Eight advances a bill that looks to reward illegal immigration with a special path to citizenship, the underlying dirge-like message is that “we must do this now so they can come out of the shadows.” 

The bill assumes that illegal immigrants, despite being filled with fear and as Senator Schumer puts it, “living in the shadows”, will all come forward at once to register and pay a hefty fee to basically have life continue as it was. The second (and more disconcerting) premise is that people must be fully rewarded for coming to the country by violating our laws. Those who came here and used false social security numbers to pay taxes (or even collect welfare) along with those who worked without paying taxes continued to violate our laws while living here.

All that said, one cannot help but be compelled by the story of our country as a nation of immigrants. Early on, there were few to no rules for entry. Our nation self-selected for enterprising people who were willing to risk everything to come here for an opportunity for a better life. Clearly, the current immigration laws as they stand require reform so that we can continue to attract the best and brightest from all over the world.

My question would be, is the premise of the Gang of Eight plan going to attract the best and brightest, or will it simply reward a group of people with a special path to citizenship who have not earned that right?

On one hand the plan appears to allow for more H-1B visas, but forces employers to pay more for them and assesses fees on companies classified as H-1B dependent. The carrot followed by the stick of more fees and costs certainly undermines improving our legal paths to citizenship if the goal is to attract more talent to the United States.

Then comes the new low skill labor category, the W-Visa. In this instance, a new government board would “assess” labor market shortages, set wage prices, and cap for certain special interests, the number of visas in certain industries.  Construction already has a cap of 33%, so one can assume this board will continue to follow a politically-driven trajectory instead of a market driven one.  Curiously enough, the agriculture sector is not part of the new low skill W-Visa group. There must be some other special interest group that had to be served to tailor a path for that industry that was incompatible with other low skill labor special interests.

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One has to wonder why there aren’t just a set number for the W-Visa instead of creating such an anti-free market solution to be run by a new government board.

So if you support limited government and have started to groan at this point but are heartened by the security measures in the bill, there is good news: yes, there are new funds allocated to border security, and the Secretary of Homeland Security will establish a strategy to implement the strategy 180 days after the bill is enacted.

But the bad news: the bill needs to pass and signed into law before we know what the strategy is to confirm that it will work. Worry not! The path to citizenship is triggered on security, so it won’t proceed unless these triggers are met. But how is that verified?

It cannot determine how the government will collect the assumed denominator (the total number of illegal entries).  If they are not apprehended or turn them back,  how are are the number of illegal entries being counted? If these security measures were so good, the denominator would be zero thus making it impossible to hit 90%.  Worse, this metric is only on high risk sectors of the border. It doesn’t take much imagination to assume that people will simply avoid those sectors and cross through other points. Therefore, the the goal for hitting 90% for this number is perhaps more of a political calculation than a mathematical one. This trigger will be hit when a bureaucrat says so, because the numbers they have will make it so. It’s nearly an impossible compliance indicator to gather.

A better defense since 2009 has been the Obama economy. Obama’s mismanagement of our fiscal situation has caused a larger drop in illegal immigrants and therefore is likely to be more effective than the triggers outlined in this bill. This continued recession has been the cheapest border fence that we could have ever built. It’s probably not our preferred method of securing the border, but it has been effective.

Further to the point of flawed policy from this administration, the larger concern isn’t a fence; it’s the current state of affairs.  Jeff Sessions has been asking the administration why the USDA has met 30 times with the Mexican government to promote US food stamps in Mexico.

“The reply makes no attempt to justify the program itself or the idea that we should partner with a foreign government to persuade immigrants and foreign nationals to become dependent on U.S. government support. Not only is this unwise as a matter of policy, but it is unaffordable during a time of $16 trillion debt… Heightening my concern is the fact that USDA has failed to provide almost all of the information requested in the oversight letter…”

Clearly the Democrat Party priority isn’t attracting the best and brightest; it’s recruiting new dependents to their beloved welfare state.  The overtures for the H-1B Visa are minor comparatively and will do little to nothing to improve the current broken legal immigration system.

So if the security trigger is more theatre, and we are using tax dollars to advertise and recruit new welfare dependents, this bill is nothing more than immediate amnesty.  Any remaining “harsh” penalties that would delay one’s freeway to citizenship will be absolved eventually out of “compassion”. If you have doubt, be reminded of the fact that there were 30 million uninsured people in the United States, was the main reason Democrats insisted on passing Obamacare.

While I would not advocate the deportation of people who have been here for some time and are working and caring for themselves, there have been ideas floating about that offer a more equitable solution than rewarding malfeasance with a special path that others who followed our laws have not been offered.

The best path forward to address both the reality on the ground and recognition that we should not reward such behavior logically means no amnesty and no mass deportation. To address both seemingly contradicting goals, defining a path to permanent legal residency without full citizenship appears to be the best solution. If you haven’t committed further crimes since you entered the United States and can prove that you are gainfully employed, please immediately submit yourself for the path to permanent residency and welcome aboard.

Senator Rubio’s latest media blitz noted that Republicans need to bring solutions to our immigration problem.  It might be in his best interest to form a gang of eight or more Republicans and put forward a Republican solution that addresses the expansive welfare state, the lack of interest in Americanizing new immigrants, and also recognizes a realistic and fair solution for the current illegal residents in our country.

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The immigrant is not the problem. Immigration is what built this country. The problem is America telling the immigrant they neither need to assimilate nor obey our rules, nor vest themselves with love of country. We have more work to do than the current legislation offered by the Gang of Eight.

Our country and those who wish to emigrate here deserve a thoughtful and reasoned solution to the current challenges.

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Amy Otto, contributor is a founding member of Pocket Full of Liberty . She also is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist and her work has been featured at Townhall and the UK site The Conservative Woman. Amy has worked in healthcare for over 18 years. Her work shifted from bench science to oversight of drug development and commercialization. Mom of three. California transplant. Steadfast Philadelphia Eagles fan. Armchair Oenophile. Capitalist. Amy received her BS in Biochemistry from University of Delaware and an MBA from Pepperdine University with a focus in Conflict Management and Resolution. Follow Amy on twitter @AmyOtto8

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