PARIS -- As a chronic immigrant, I'm loath to support immigration policies that might make life difficult for anyone seeking to legitimately integrate into and contribute to an adoptive nation. Nonetheless, as the Obama administration attempts to reform U.S. immigration policies, there needs to be some standard of selection for immigrants. That standard should be nothing more or less than meritocracy.
The common argument against meritocracy is the well-worn image of the hard-working illegal immigrant who lives in a dive and toils away in the underground economy to send money to his family back home -- who he hopes will one day join him in America. While that type of immigrant is wholeheartedly deserving of sympathy, imagine if such a person represented the acceptable immigration standard. It would defeat the purpose of having any kind of policy at all.
Certainly this person deserves an opportunity at a better life -- which is why America and its allies contribute billions of dollars every year to foreign-aid programs and often intervene militarily under humanitarian pretext. It's not like he can't work for Western companies abroad. They're everywhere, particularly in emerging markets. And once you get your foot in the door and prove yourself at one of these companies, you have the opportunity to work your way up to a visa that will legitimately allow you to work in America. Merit-based immigration would eventually favor this person as well.
Will Republicans have the courage to straighten their backbones and defend the principle of merit-based immigration? Or will they ultimately engage President Obama and the Democrats in a race to sell out America for votes? Granted, the immigrants affected by these policies don't even vote, but many of their families and friends do. So do those influenced by the various lobbying groups advocating on behalf of groups of immigrants on the basis of race rather than merit (which is actually pretty racist unto itself).
Obama recently instructed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review deportation policies. There are already so many candidates for deportation that more than 36,000 convicted criminals residing in America illegally were released from detention last year while awaiting deportation proceedings, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.