“It is a manifest right of our Government to limit the number of immigrants our Nation can absorb. It is also a manifest right of our Government to set reasonable requirements on the character and the numbers of the people who come to share our land and our freedom. It is well for us, however, to remind ourselves occasionally of an equally manifest fact: we are-one and all-immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants.“
Dwight D. Eisenhower, State of the Union Address 1953
Many opponents of illegal immigration qualify their position by stating that they support legal immigration. The instinct behind this assertion is understandable. There is a prima facie difference between legal and illegal immigration: illegal immigrants are lawbreakers, while legal immigrants are following the rules to become Americans. Our sense of fairness makes us sympathize with the legal immigrant waiting patiently in line as the illegal cuts to the front of the line without consequences.
However, the fact that legal immigrants are playing by the rules does not mean the United States of America can have unlimited legal immigration. Uncontrolled legal immigrations poses many of the same problems as illegal immigration such as overcrowding schools, difficulty with assimilation, terrorism and strains on social services.
In terms of sheer numbers, legal immigration is much more significant than illegal immigration. There are over 38 million foreign born residents in the United States, more than the next four highest immigrant populated countries combined, with 28 million here legally, over twice as many as the 11 million illegal aliens.
Most estimates show that the illegal population has flat-lined or slightly decreased since 2008 due to the economic downturn and mild increases in enforcement-largely on the part of the states. However, legal immigration remains high. In fact, in 2009, during the height of the current recession, we issued more than 1.1 million Green Cards, the second highest year since 1914. The first ten years of the millennium saw more legal immigrants come into this country than during any decade in our nation’s history. Additionally, we permit nearly one million temporary workers to enter the country each year.
Despite these extremely high numbers, there is no shortage of how many people would come if we opened our borders even wider. As of 2010, 4.7 million foreigners are on the waiting list for family and employment visas, 1.2 million of them having been added in the last year. Additionally, over 15 million aliens applied for the Diversity Visa Lottery. The number of immigrants who would come here with no controls is actually higher, because many foreigners refrain from applying. Americans should be grateful that, for all our problems, we live in a free and prosperous country that millions across the globe would like to live here as well. However, we simply cannot absorb all these people at once.
Our legal immigration policy comes down to answering two simple questions: how many immigrants should we accept each year, and how do we select those who we let in. Currently, we are letting in too many legal immigrants, and are not selecting them based on what they can contribute to the United States.
Limiting immigration does not make one anti-immigrant or anti-legal immigration any more than opposing alcoholic benders makes one anti-alcohol. We should welcome and integrate the immigrants who come to this country legally, but we must choose our legal immigration policy based on what is in the national interest.
Reduce Overall Immigration: As stated above, we now issue over 1.1 million Green Cards each year. With unemployment at the highest rates in decades, it makes no sense to open up the doors any wider. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, foreign born workers gained 656,000 jobs, while native born Americans lost 1.2 million jobs during the Great Recession. This shows that the idea we need immigrants to do the jobs Americans won’t do is simply untrue. Additionally, all periods of high immigration in American history were followed by periods of low immigration to assimilate those already here. Prior to the 1965, America issued an average of 250,000 permanent visas each year. We should return to this traditional level until Americans are back to work and immigrants here are fully assimilated.
End Chain Migration: The 1965 Immigration Act established family reunification as the primary goal of immigration policy, where two thirds of all immigrants now receive these visas. An American citizen or legal permanent resident can sponsor their siblings, parents, and children of any age. This creates a chain reaction effect because once these new siblings receive their Green Cards, they can then sponsor their family members. As time goes on, the cousins, aunts and uncles, and even second cousins begin to eventually come to this country. The process of chain migration is the largest cause of the skyrocketing number of immigrants who have come to this country in the last 40 years. Additionally, it lowers the quality of immigrants, because it does not focus on any tangible skills or what they will contribute to the United States. For this reason, family reunification should be limited to minor children and spouses. If an immigrant needs to live in the same country as their parents, cousins, and aunts, they can return back to their home country.
Refugees and Asylum: The world is often an ugly place, and Americans are truly sympathetic to those who must endure the horrors of war, famine, natural disasters, and government oppression. In 1939, 930 Jewish refugees aboard the German ocean liner MS St. Louis, were turned away from America and hundreds eventually perished in the Holocaust. In part out of a desire to avoid repeating this mistake, America opened its doors to anti-communist patriots fleeing Marxist oppression. Since then, we have instituted one of the most generous refugee and asylum policies. While rooted in admirable instincts, these policies have caused enormous problems for Americans. Many refugees come from the least developed countries and, unlike other legal immigrants, are immediately eligible for social services. Our refugee and asylum policies have been rife with fraud, and the definition of oppression has been stretched to absurdity. For example, the courts granted a transvestite illegal alien asylum on the grounds he would be subject to “homophobia” in Mexico. We can accommodate refugees truly facing the worst situations, but two reforms should be made. First, as soon as someone sets foot on a country free of repression, there is no reason for them to need to come to the United States. Secondly, refugees and asylees should not receive automatic permanent residency and be placed on the path to citizenship. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda was truly horrific and it made sense to accept refugees. However, these conflicts ended after a few years, and it would be reasonable to expect those refugees to return home. We should help those across the globe when we can. But, it is important to recognize we cannot solve the world’s problems by letting the world settle in America.
Abolish the Diversity Visa Lottery: Each year we give out 50,000 visas by way of a diversity lottery. Like the 1965 Immigration Act, this provision was pushed by Ted Kennedy. Also, like the 1965 Immigration Act, Kennedy claimed that the bill would be much more limited than he stated. The Diversity Visa used to be known as the “Irish Program,” designed to provide visas to the Irish Illegal Aliens who were not eligible for the larger 1986 Amnesty. However, it has eventually been seen as necessary to make the immigrant population more diverse. Everyone in the world who has a high school diploma or minimal job experience is eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery, with the exception of foreigners in the largest sending countries to America (e.g. Mexico, China, Canada, El Salvador etc.) The applications are put in a lottery and randomly selected. Multiple terrorists such as the LAX Airport shooter Hesham Mohamed Hedayet “won” the Diversity Lottery. This system is also rife for fraud, with immigrant selection based on what they can contribute to this country, not by chance selection. The Diversity Visa Lottery should be completely eliminated.
Create a Point System: Prior to the 1965 Immigration Act, immigrants were selected based on per country quotas that favored Northern Europeans. Reforming our current regime does not mean we need to return back to the quota system. Canada and many other industrialized countries select immigrants by a point system. Immigrants are given points based on certain desirable characteristics. These characteristics may change based upon our specific immigration needs, but generally include a command of the English language, a high level of education, and advanced work skills. People who will invest in the American economy or possess truly extraordinary ability would be granted even more points. Such a system is compatible with the American ideals of meritocracy without discrimination based on race or nationality.
End Sovereignty-Eroding “Free Trade” Agreements: Trade and immigration do not necessarily go hand in hand. People and products are, of course, very different. Trading goods has an economic impact, but unlike some immigrants, these products don’t vote, go on welfare, attend public schools, commit crimes, etc. However, international “free trade agreements” such as NAFTA and CAFTA go far beyond simple trade policy and have both a direct and indirect impact on immigration that is significant. The direct impact of these particular free trade agreements is that they almost always have provisions to include “guest workers,” often with different standards for other immigrants. Indirectly, these free trade agreements sacrifice American sovereignty by creating international institutions to manage trade and even internal economic policies. This erosion of sovereignty trends towards open borders. One only need to look at the European Common Market, which began as a free trade system, but was eventually transformed into the European Union having complete open borders within their union of countries. Regardless of whether one supports free trade or protectionism, our trade policy should be made unilaterally without any sacrifice of our sovereignty or inclusion of immigration provisions.
ON THE WEB
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- U.S. Census Bureau: Immigration Data
- Homeland Security: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics
- Homeland Security: Latest Legal and Illegal Immigration Statistics