Serious Immigration Reform

Of late there has been a very vocal group of individuals that argues for closed borders, greater restrictions and even physical barriers, thus making the wall a relevant symbol of the philosophy of clamping down. But no amount of doing more of the same thing will ever bring about a solution to “The Problem” and in a larger sense, the problem is that there is so much disagreement about what “The Problem” actually is.  We all agree that our immigration system is broken, but we are almost irreconcilably divided on what the “Fixed” system should look like. Generally speaking, there are three categories that encompass the immigration issue: jobs, taxes, resources, and security.

In terms of jobs, the common refrain is that immigrants are coming to the USA and taking jobs away from hardworking Americans. This is not true for several reasons. First of all the overwhelming majority of these immigrants are working jobs that Americans simply do not want to do or do not have the skill set to do.  Even if there must be some price that Americans could be paid to these jobs, the effect would only be to increase prices dramatically, killing demand and everyone loses.

Do immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, represent a drain on our resources?  It is a fact that immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, will consume services provided by the tax payer.  However, many of those same immigrates pay taxes into our state and national coffers.  And those that do not go on to become citizens, will not collect social security or receive medicare.  So in truth, immigrants are a net boon in many ways and not a net drain.  Also, the increased business that a growing community does do to the demand that this populations represents, further support both our tax base and job breation.

This leaves the final issue of security, which is an entirely separate concern from economic matters.

Query: Who do we really want to keep out of the country? And if we had to pick the smallest group of people as possible, would “drug dealers and terrorists” fit the description? How do we stop those people from coming in? Well… It’s nearly impossible in a world of mass undocumented immigration. We need to know who is coming into our country. And to do this, we need a system that encourages compliance, unlike our current system.  We want everyone to comply with the law, but how can we expect universal voluntary compliance when doing so will be more likely to deny them entry or send them home?  And it is this situation of so many bypassing the system, that allows the risk of truly bad people to enter the country undetected and unknown.

For the moment, please put aside the notion that we must stop immigration. If we had a system that made it easy for people to get visas, and easier to get green cards, permanent resident status or citizenship, then we automatically incentivize compliance because compliance will get them what they want!  And if compliance were, nearly universal, because we have removed the barriers to entry, we would have a much clearer idea of who is coming and going. Their compliance gives us this critical information. And it now becomes easy to run background checks, just to see if the applicant has any past convictions related to drugs or terrorist activity.

And to those who still bypass the system? They would now be fewer in number, easier to find and almost entirely comprised of the people we are trying to keep out. The true threats now stand out by their non-compliance, where they currently blend in amidst a crowd of otherwise decent, though undocumented, people. If you are an immigration enforcement officer and you show up at a work site, would you rather have to chase down everyone as they all run away, or just the one person, as everyone else will know that they are in the system, and welcome to stay and work? I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have to chase just one person down, than several dozen!

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