In the midst of the never ending political season, we hear much rhetoric about immigration, and what candidates will "do" to fix what everyone considers to be a broken (not failed, just broken) immigration system. Most of the candidates, however, put a condition on fixing this broken system by saying that: "FIRST, we must secure the border and end illegal immigration, then we will talk." What will it take to accomplish this precondition to solve a the acknowledged problem.
There are two types of "illegal" immigration to the United States. The first is what everyone already considers to be illegal immigration--those who enter the United States without a visa through our thousands of miles of borders. Proposals to fix this particular type of illegal immigration range from alligators and moats, to automatic firing machine guns, to “beautiful” walls, to limitless numbers of border patrol agents.
The second type of "illegal" immigration involves individuals who enter the United States legally on visas or the visa waiver (ESTA) program, and who then overstay their allotted time (typically either 6 or 3 months). Solutions proposed to this type of illegal immigration include RFID chips, monitoring by immigration agents, new immigration exit control stations, and even searching for and locating overstays.
What no one seems to talk about is how these proposed solutions are supposed to stop illegal immigration. How does putting 20,000 more border patrol agents stop illegal immigration? Slow it down? Sure. Stop it completely? Not a chance. And, if our “leaders” will not even attempt to deal with fixing our broken system until there is zero illegal immigration we will never have immigration reform. Think about that when you hear a politician say that they will not consider any fix to the system until the border is "secure," (whatever they mean by that.)
But, there is a way to stop illegal immigration, both the undocumented kind, and the kind that results from visa overstays. Why do we have illegal immigration in the first place? That is simple. We have illegal immigration because people want to live in the United States but do not have a viable legal method to immigrate. It’s basically about supply and demand. As we learned in the recent tragedy in California, people intent on doing us harm do not need to come illegally, they can use our current broken legal immigration system to come here.
People want to come to either be with their family that is already here, work in a job that is going to both support their family in a way that cannot be done in their birth country and that is not being filled by a native born U.S. citizen, or because they are afraid that remaining in their home country is so dangerous to their lives that they risk coming without a visa. There are also investors, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals and workers who we need and want to have in the United States to grow our economy and maintain our status as the leader of the free world. Frankly, we should be very worried if the day ever comes that no one wants to come to the United States. Ask North Korea how that works out.
Knowing why people come illegally means we can create a system to deal with immigration in a way to secures our borders, secures our freedom, and secures our economic and societal well-being. How? By addressing the flaws in our legal immigration system at the same time we deal with the issues related to securing the border. As Congress is showing right now as it votes on piecemeal fixes to our EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, the H-1B and L-1 visas, and the Visa Waiver program, we are fully capable of dealing with legal immigration while we strengthen our borders and enforcement. A politician who tells you that we cannot even talk about legal immigration or even legalization until after the border is secured is nothing more than a political coward.
For example, our current legal immigration system allows employers to sponsor up to 10,000 green cards a year (nationwide and including spouses and children) for "unskilled workers.” You know them as the people who work in chicken processing plants, hotels, restaurants and landscaping. Obviously, just in Georgia there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigration doing these jobs. Yet, if an employer wanted to "sponsor" such a worker, the wait time is immense. Why should an employer who needs someone today to do the work, wait 10 years to have person start working? Do you see the problem with our current legal system. The numbers of visas available, the types of visas available, and the "line" for available visas all tell us the same thing--an immigration system first created almost 65 years ago, and last updated 25 years ago, cannot and does not work for a 21st century economy.
What do we need to do to stop illegal immigration? Have a legal immigration system that is easier than immigrating illegally. I am not talking about open borders, but rather about a controlled legal immigration system that is directed by market forces coupled to our unemployment rate. We need a legal immigration system that actually reflects the needs of the 21st century family, employer, and immigrant. There will be some who want to stop all immigration, that want to take a "time out." Ask Japan how that has worked. Our reality is that a functioning legal immigration system, with enough visas and a simplified processes that matches willing workers and employers, that reduces wait times for immediate family members to short processing intervals, that accounts for our treaty obligations in accepting refugees and asylees, and one which forgives people for mistakes made decades ago and allows them to be brought into the fold of the American fabric will be part of maintaining the greatness that is the United States of America.
We are better than the rhetoric we are hearing from our presidential candidates. As voters which should demand men and woman of integrity, courage, and vision to lead us. Let's hope we get what we need.