Throughout the history of human civilization, wherever there were established cultures and populations, there were borders – the Great Wall of China to protect against invaders; stone walls to protect European cities from the time of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages; stockades that protected early American settlers from Indian attacks; and barbed wire fences stretching across the plains of Texas to protect roaming herds of cattle from rustlers. Strong borders make good neighbors; also, safe homelands.
Yet, preservation of the homeland does not appear to be the true focus of supporters of the so-called “immigration reform” bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate. Rather than craft a bill that actually modernized our immigration process to reflect today’s economic, fiscal and social conditions, the Senate pieced together a massive slab of legislation, loaded with pork, and aimed more at appeasing special interest groups than fixing serious deficiencies in our immigration system. Worse still, at the core of the legislation’s attempt at reform is a pathway to amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.
There is no denying the number of illegal aliens in the United States must be addressed, but “reform” does not begin by exacerbating problems supposedly being remedied. Granting amnesty to millions of illegals only adds to the long list of incentives for others to sneak into the U.S. While the Senate bill does allocate more resources to the Border Patrol to better secure the border, physical security measures can only go so far to stem the waves of illegal immigrants constantly penetrating our southern border.
Meaningful immigration reform must include more comprehensive steps to address why so many people immigrate to our country illegally. Only by tackling illegal immigration at the foundation can America’s border security be made effective. Once the balance of immigration is shifted back towards legal pathways, Congress can address the question of what to do with the millions of undocumented peoples within our border.
Otherwise, it is simply bailing out a sinking ship.
This approach will force Congress to look at two key problems in our current immigration process. The first is the financial incentives to “cut in line” through the legal immigration process by sneaking into the country. The second is to address the “line” itself.
In liberal bastions across the U.S., illegal immigrants are rewarded with driver’s licenses and taxpayer-subsidized handouts. California, for example, which perennially is on the brink of fiscal disaster, cannot even afford to pay its bills; yet its leaders continue to fork-over precious tax dollars to people who legally should not be in the country to begin with. If foreigners see they can break the law, enter the United States illegally, and still receive public aid, there is no incentive to adhere to the legal process. Every time we add more “bonuses” for illegal immigration -- amnesty being the biggest prize -- it reduces incentives to follow the law. If we eliminate such financial incentives, we remove a major cause of our immigration woes, while making things fairer for taxpayers.
Secondly, the immigration process itself must be reformed. If the immigration bill does not make it easier for law-abiding immigrants to come here to work and pursue the American dream, we miss an opportunity to truly fix illegal immigration once and for all. Like an electrical current, immigration follows the path of least resistance. As dangerous and expensive as illegally entering the United States can be, it still may be the easiest route for many people, simply because of the bureaucratic complexities built into our immigration system.
We should be working to streamline the legal immigration process itself; even as we make sure immigrants do not have a criminal record, do not pose a risk to our national security, and do not suffer from any communicable disease.
We also must ensure we manage the immigration process to our economic benefit. This is why I support the SAFE for America Act (H.R. 704). This measure would eliminate the controversial Visa Lottery program, which annually awards legal permanent resident status to 50,000 foreign nationals, based on pure chance rather than economic needs. Our system of visas and work permits (including student visas) must be reformed so it is more rationally based on our country’s workforce needs.
It is reassuring to hear Speaker John Boehner call for deliberative consideration of immigration reform, following passage of the Senate’s ill-advised product. Hopefully this is a sign we will at long last move beyond the tired talking points crafted for special interest groups and political parties, and come together for a bipartisan solution to fixing this urgent problem. Ultimately, too, voters must wake members of Congress from their self-induced amnesia, in which they believe that amnesty in 2013 will solve the illegal immigration problem to any greater degree than it did when last it tried in 1986.