President Obama suggested that after his health care and cap-and-tax plans have gone through the Congressional vetting process, his next target is immigration reform. He aims to have draft legislation ready some time this year. Our immigration system is not without its flaws, but the rumored inclusion of an amnesty, or pathway to citizenship provision is not the way to solve Americas immigration problems.
The President believes that we need, an orderly process for people to come in, but that we also need to give an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live in the shadows. If the President follows through on his promise, such an amnesty plan could:
- Erode the rule of law. Roughly 12 million illegal immigrants live in America. To legalize them and turn a blind eye to their disregard for our immigration laws would be unfair to those immigrants who came here legally. It would also set a dangerous precedent that if you break American law, you can be rewarded with the valuable gift of U.S. citizenship.
- Put yet another burden on taxpayers. As of 2004, the average low-skilled immigrant household received an average of $30,160 in direct benefits, means-tested benefits (welfare), education, and population-based services. However, on average low-skilled immigrant households only pay $10,573 in taxes. That comes to an astounding price of $19,588 of fiscal debt per low-skilled immigrant household. Adding this onto the backs of taxpayers after potentially forcing them to pay for health care reform and a cap-and-trade scheme is fiscally irresponsible.
Instead, America needs an immigration policy that focuses on programs that work, and provides a coordinated approach among the state, local, and federal authorities. Real reform needs to:
- Enforce current immigration and workplace law. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano must ensure that internal enforcement efforts continue. This includes E-Verify and Social Security No-Match, workplace raids that help to decrease incentives for both illegal immigrants and employers, as well as 287(g) programs, which help state and local law enforcement enforce immigration laws.
- Safeguard the southern border. The porous southern border makes illegal entry into the United States an easier and more attractive option than the legal avenues. The physical and technological fence is only part of the solution. More border agents are needed, more technology needs to be deployed, and federal authorities need to cooperate and collaborate more with state and local law enforcement.
- Promote good governance and economic development in Latin America. Aiding Latin American countries in their economic development will greatly reduce the pressure on their citizens to come to the U.S. illegally. Furthermore, in Mexico it is vital that the U.S. help the Mexican government combat the growing drug cartel problem that threatens to destabilize that nation.
- Enhance legal worker programs and reform Citizenship and Immigration Services. The U.S. needs to provide legal avenues that meet the needs of employers and immigrants and provide a better alternative than illegal immigration. USCIS needs to be a more efficient and effective partner in providing the immigration services and enforcement that the nation needs. Strengthen citizenship. The federal government should support programs that promote civics and history education among immigrants and encourage English language proficiency in order to foster political integration and strengthen commitment to our common principles.
Immigration reform should uphold the rule of law, respect the needs of the economy, and provide a legal means by which to come to the U.S.