Amid the many major policy achievements over this past year for the American people, President Trump’s State of the Union last week also went over the strong progress that has been made recently in securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws.
Border crossing arrests are at an incredible 46-year low amid plummeting attempted entries. According to ICE, administrative arrests are at a 3-year high and with a particular focus on illegal immigrants with prior criminal convictions. Sanctuary cities have been put on notice and violent organizations like MS-13 know their days are numbered.
As acting ICE Chief Thomas Homan said last month, “If you violate the laws of this country, if you enter illegally, which is a crime, it’s not going to be OK anymore."
And indeed illegal immigration has been a persistently unsolved problem that’s only grown in impact and severity as the years went on, as evidenced by the recent gridlock over DACA that led to a government shutdown and seemingly might again as the extension deadline nears.
Illegal immigration is an affront to the welcoming nature of the American people. America has one of the most open immigration systems in the world, and illegal immigrants flout our nation’s generosity in violating our laws and jumping the line.
Furthermore, illegal immigration also demeans the patience and efforts of the over 675,000 legal immigrants to our country every year, many of whom may wait up to 20 years to be issued their license to enter our nation.
The immigration debate has become quite convoluted in recent years as Democrats have, seemingly purposely, lost sight of the significant gulf between legal and illegal immigration.
While largely a political strategy by Democrats to attempt to gain the support of newcomers to this country, there are signs that equating legal and illegal immigration doesn’t always work out well. After all, it was in deep-blue Maryland last year that legal immigrants were the driving force behind defeating multiple sanctuary city proposals in the state.
Undoubtedly our immigration system is broken and needs reform. Many law-abiding people from around the world are eager to come to our country in search of freedom and opportunity. They often find themselves waiting decades, depriving our country of many who end up being some of the most hard-working and contributory members of American society, contributing immensely to our economy and culture.
Even international students, who we invite into our country to study at our universities and are often the best and brightest from around the world, often find difficulty in being able to stay in the United States after graduation and thereby deprive us of an incredible source of talent and spirit.
With over half of Fortune 500 companies having been founded by immigrants or their children, including a majority of current major technology companies, we never know if we might be letting another nation benefit instead of us from the next creative genius or tech pioneer.
The web of immigration policies is complex, as our fierce discourse shows daily. Policies such as H-1B, the diversity lottery, family reunification/chain migration, and DACA are all extraordinarily complicated and each has their own moral, economic, and social positives and negatives.
Amid our current hyper-polarization, perhaps no issue is more seemingly unbridgeable than immigration. However maybe the potential common ground is also the most sensible, namely putting an end to illegal immigration while making it easier for our country to better gain the benefits of taking in those from around the world who will contribute to the American fabric.
Democrats once thought like this. After all, President Bill Clinton said in his 1995 State of the Union that “[a]ll Americans… are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country” and how “[w]e are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws.” We can only hope someday they see things from that angle once again.
America’s distinction in human history is a combination of the individual liberty-based civic ideals that bind us along with our incredible diversity. There have been many multi-ethnic states throughout history, but few that have been able to truly and effectively embrace a higher human identity above ethnic and tribal affiliations.
Our current immigration system is clearly not working as well for our country as it should in the 21st century. It remains my hope Democrats and Republicans can come together to address this issue that will have enormous impact on our nation’s economic, political, and social future.
As we saw with the White House’s recently released anti-illegal pro-merit immigration compromise, including giving a path to citizenship for over a million DACA recipients, even in seemingly hyperpolarized DC there may be hope on the horizon on this front.