A Third Approach to Immigration
To say that we are a nation of immigrants may be an overused expression; however, it doesn’t discount the reality that America is a nation of immigrants.
The 2010 Census estimated that nearly 40 million, or 13 percent of this country’s population, was foreign born.
Immigration has always been contentious. Whether you watch the news or are living near the border, immigration has polarized our nation. No matter how many attempts we have made to merge foreigners with those who have assimilated into the continent, there have been cultural, ethnic and economic problems. This has led to backlash against foreigners throughout our history.
Nothing is new under the sun. The arguments heard today against immigrants – claims that they bring diseases, take jobs and don’t want to be Americans – were being made in the 1840’s by Know-Nothings and nativists.
However, despite the media hype, the ripplings in the seas, immigration has always been seen in waves and crests. To understand immigration present you must revisit immigration’s past.
Many laws have been passed attempting to control immigration. One example was the National Origins Act of 1924, aimed at limiting the number of immigrants from China, Japan and other Asian countries. Another was the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 that gave preference to immigrants based on skills and family relationships instead of race.
The Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986, signed by President Reagan, made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire or recruit undocumented immigrants, yet legalized some seasonal farm workers who had come to the country undocumented.
No law has stopped undocumented immigration. A study last year by the Pew Research Center estimated that there are about 11.7 million illegal immigrants living in this country.
Conservatives are calling for stronger enforcement of immigration laws. Liberals want to broaden family reunification policies.
I believe there should be a pathway to American citizenship and that the faster we make someone a citizen, the faster they can become taxpayers and contribute to society. However, because they broke the law, I believe undocumented immigrants should pay a penalty, though not a punitive one.
Although we need restrictions on immigrants, I wonder whether it’s good logic to spend billions on law enforcement. History has shown that building fences does little to curb undocumented immigration; that technique just encourages people to allow their visas to expire and stay in the country.
To curb immigration we need to go after unscrupulous employers who hire undocumented workers.Because jobs are the fuel that spurs undocumented immigration, a database that verifies every worker in the U.S. would be more efficient and less expensive.
Instead of turning our country into a police state, a better way to curb immigration is to invest in more training for American workers. The government should create a training center and skill system that can find areas in which Americans trail their competitors, such as math, science and physics. This would eliminate the excuse that businesses need to hire foreigners.
We need to be smarter and reward companies that invest in America and severely punish those that are concerned only about profiting from foreign labor. That would be a reasonable approach to immigration.