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Immigration Reform: An American Challenge

By on Apr 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.

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.

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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  1. James Fiorvento

    April 23, 2013

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    The biggest issue facing our immigration process is that it is very easy to enter the country, legally or otherwise, but very difficult to remain in the country legally. To this end, here are the reforms to our immigration system that I propose.

    First of all, our border security is paramount. Ideally, we should close our southern border save for 4 points of entry, one in each southern border state. These would be the Ellis Islands of the 21st Century.

    Realistically, however, I realize that this has about as much chance of happening as throngs of winged simians flying from my backside. I’d be content with giving border states more leeway to secure their borders as they see fit.

    Second, we need to realize that our current naturalization system is a fen of bureaucratic morass. I know people who have been in this country for over 40 years, working in skilled jobs, who are not yet citizens because it’s easier for them to renew their green cards than become citizens. That should not be happening.

    Third, for those who are in the country illegally, we must divide them into two types: Those who entered the United States illegally, and those who entered the Untied States legally, but whose visas have expired. For the former group, I support no “pathway to citizenship” beyond “leave the country, and reenter legally”.

    For those in the latter group, I support a pathway to citizenship so long as they:

    A. Have no criminal record.
    B. Can demonstrate gainful employment.
    C. Are required to wait “at the back of the line” behind those who have remained legal throughout their time in the United States.

    Fourth, for the future, we need an immigration policy that encourages smart, skilled people to legally enter the country and easily become citizens. I’m going to be frank, times are bad, we need all the brain cells we can. The immigration process should be expedited(in descending order) for those who have doctorates or Master’s Degrees, for those who have bachelor’s or other college degrees, for those who can demonstrate a much-needed skill or trade, for those with a full secondary school education, and for those who can demonstrate a skill of any kind.

    With these reforms, we can have an immigration policy that makes sense.

  2. Andrew Young

    April 23, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I agree with you that our system is broken, in that people who are legally applying to come to here are having to pay thousands of dollars and waiting for years before even being allowed to come here. There are some who come here because of their job (I work for such a company). I have talked with my colleagues who are permanent residents and a majority of them feel that all illegal immigrants need to leave. The common theme is “if I had to follow the system and pay taxes” why should they be able to skip the line.
    Yes, those who broke our law coming here, need to just return to their home country.
    I disagree with you on allowing them to reenter the country. They too have broken our laws and because of this they are not allowed back into the country. Lose any taxes they paid while here illegally. Any property is sold and after using what proceeds there are to pay for their transportation home, they can have what is left over. Any children who were born here, will be allowed to return when they become adults, but they can go with their families so to not “break them up”.
    The law does need to be followed in that if you are a legal visitor/immigrant “you are required to obtain a SSN and are also required to carry your Visa/green papers with you at all times.” How is this profiling if someone can’t speak English or has broken English, they are asked to produce their paperwork?? I visit a different nation, I am required to carry my passport with me at all times and produce it when requested by law enforcement.
    Another thing that does need changing is that English should be required and the nationalization test needs to be in English. Most other countries require that you be able to read/write/speak their language before they will allow you to become a citizen and not just a visitor. We are the only country that has multiple language test for naturalization.

    Yeah, I am pretty harsh with this, I saw the amnesty fiasco back in the 80s and it didn’t solve anything, just made it worse. No they don’t have rights under our Constitution, especially if they have broken our laws.
    The other solution would be to use the country of origin own laws as the way to treat them. Jail, deportation, fines. I am tired of illegals coming here, not bothering to assimilate into society, but we are to accept their customs and change our ways for them. This is why we are having so many problems now, the PC police says, “I must recognize different cultures and be acceptable.” So, with this mantra, that is why there are more stories happening about “Honor Killings” please, how is that acceptable?

    Yep, I rambled on again, sorry. But good article and well written. Good going Amy!

  3. Lawful Plunder

    April 23, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Great piece Amy! Lots of good stuff to comment on, but the central point is that the incentive for illegal immigration will remain. As long as that continues, enhanced border security will never be enough. And as you point out, how we measure border security is ripe for abuse, especially since one political party has a MASSIVE incentive to claim the the border is secure.

    But even if you take the 90% figure at face value, 90% of a large number still means lots of illegal immigrants. And if all you do is put them back on the other side of the border, they will simply try again. The “conservatives” who support/promote this bill because of the “security” provisions are deluding themselves, or more likely, they know it’s a joke and are merely trying to mislead their constituents (who would ordinarily be opposed).

  4. Tom H.

    April 23, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Spot on, Amy.

    I’m not sure why, but I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of talk about the ‘permanent residency’ path as opposed to citizenship.
    That seems to me to be the only possible compromise as to what we do with those already here.

    Rubio seems to be skating on thin-ice with his Gang of 8 bill proposal. I truly wish he would either jump ship or do exactly as you suggest and form another group to also come up with proposals… this one being Republican only. (Might even suggest that Schumer do the same thing with a group of Democrats only).

    Then everybody can come together and hammer out an actual compromise bill. (The original Gang of 8 bill is bi-partisan only in the sense that 4 Republicans seemed to have signed off on a Democrat immigration wish-list).

  5. john marzan

    April 24, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I will not support any bill without this two as minimum goals.

    1) First, eliminate access to free K-12 public school education for future illegal aliens. (If USA is serious about curbing illegal immigration, stop providing free stuff to non citizen illegals. Prop 187 pls)

    2) No more automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. to 2 non-American parents. (ie plug the anchor baby loophole)

    Once these two are accomplished first, then we can talk about amnesties and legalization.

    As long as there are democrats, you cannot rely on them to secure the borders.

  6. Idelvalle

    April 28, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I love libertarians that are against immigration reform legislation: they believe in the invisible hand of capitalism just as long it is attached to someone who looks like them.


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