I once asked my father whether he resented being separated from his dad for the first seven years of his life, while he waited to legally immigrate to America. My dad said absolutely not. “America was worth the wait.”
A common refrain I hear is that immigrants, like my father and grandfather, have a great work ethic or that it would be cruel to separate families. And as a Catholic, I am taught the virtues of love, charity, and compassion. But America’s immigration policy must first be about compassion for hard-working Americans.
For the past decade-plus, wages for the 74 percent of Americans who don’t have college degrees have been stagnant, and median income has fallen, in part because of a combination of millions of illegal immigrants and new legal immigrants coming to this country per year.
The impact of this economic stagnation has struck native-born African Americans and Hispanics harder than whites. Since 2000, the employment rate for native-born African Americans has worsened by 9.2 percent and Hispanics by 7.7 percent, while employment for whites has worsened by 6.1 percent. Granting amnesty only exacerbates this problem.
To me, the solution is clear.
First, we must secure the border and end the acute border surge. The southwestern border is out of control. The way to bring it under control is more and better fencing and more smartly-deployed manpower. To be effective, a fence needs to be similar to the border fencing that Israel uses – high with barbed wire, a screening fence, and a patrol road along it. The complementary way to achieve operational control of the border is to strengthen the Border Patrol: complete surveillance systems; more manpower, especially in the short-run; and reformed Border Patrol operations.
Meanwhile, we have acute border surges because the Obama Administration has let unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico, and asylum-seekers, be moved away from the border and thus almost never deported. This non-enforcement of the law has encouraged more such border crossings. The way to end these crossings is to never let unaccompanied minors or asylum-seekers move from the border, to increase the resources needed to judge their cases, and to deport most of them.
Second, all entries and exits should be tracked. Stopping illegal immigrants from crossing the border is just one part of curbing illegal immigration. Very roughly 40 percent of illegal immigrants first enter legally but then overstay their visas (the exact number is unknown). The government’s existing entry-exit tracking system, US-VISIT, does not track 100 percent of entries and tracks few exits. It should be completed and track all of them.
The burden of eliminating the problems caused by illegal immigration does not only lie at the feet of border enforcement, it is also the responsibility of businesses not to tempt illegal immigrants into our country. This is why I believe the E-Verify system must be made mandatory, apply to existing employees as well as new hires, inform employers if there is no match between the Social Security Number and other information submitted, and inform employees if there is possible identity fraud from excessive multiple use.
Other enticements to illegal immigration, such as birthright citizenship, should be ended. Only children born on American soil where at least one parent is a citizen or resident aliens is automatically a U.S. citizen. Of developed countries other than the United States, only Canada has birthright citizenship.
And existing laws should simply be enforced. There should be a sufficient number of immigration judges and a sufficient number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to do so, as well as expedited procedures for removing illegal immigrants who come into the custody of law enforcement.
Third, we should reduce legal immigration from its current level of 1,050,000 immigrants a year to about 750,000 annually. Our legal immigration system is broken, and we are allowing record-high numbers of legal immigrants to come to America. This has an impact on our economy and American workers who are competing with a million new immigrants each year for jobs.
To accomplish this, we must first start with eliminating chain migration (the immigration of adult relatives) and the diversity visa lottery (a random global give-away of American citizenship). These policies are antiquated, unfair, out of step with the policies of other developed countries, and not based on the needs of our nation.
In the one area of our economy where we have a need for immigrants, agricultural, we must establish a workable agricultural guest worker program. This program should be managed by the Department of Agriculture to meet the needs of our farmers.
Fourth, we should not grant worker permits to illegal immigrants, i.e. amnesty, except to agricultural workers as described above. And we should allow the Obama amnesties (3-year temporary work permits) to lapse naturally by not renewing them.
I have compassion, respect and admiration for people around the world who want to be Americans. It’s our job to make sure America will always be a place for those immigrants we accept will be able to aspire to freedom and opportunity like my father. We do that by keeping America safe, preserving her values and creating a strong economy for everyone. An immigration policy that prioritizes American’s needs, workers, and families is where that starts.