In the NY Times, Julia Preston writes that the immigration problem is defying politicians’ attempts to answer it easily.
Coinciding with the mood of apprehension following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the new immigration has provoked more than the traditional suspicion that foreigners are taking jobs from American workers. For many voters in the primary races, immigration has become an urgent national security concern and a challenge to the American identity.
The new immigration also sharpened the rift between the federal government and the states. Across party lines, frustrated voters accuse the Bush administration of failing to secure the southern border against intruders, of being lax on employers hiring illegal immigrants and of preaching assimilation without providing resources for local schools where Spanish-speaking students are enrolled.
While our leaders have failed to lead on this issue, I don’t agree that it’s because the illegal immigration problem is overly complex. The minefield that is public relations makes it a treacherous issue to take a stand on, what with pro-immigration groups being so vocal and a liberal media and court system ready and willing to shoot down any and all attempts to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants. The issue itself, however, is relatively straightforward.
America’s borders should be secured and admittance to the country controlled simply as a matter of principle. That or open the borders and do away with the concept of illegal immigration altogether. I’d rather pay for the former.
Future immigrants should be vetted and admittance granted on the criteria of maximum benefit to the U.S. Preference should be given to the educated, the able, and those willing to assimilate into our culture, with scientists, researchers, and engineers at the top of the list.
Existing illegals should be given a path to citizenship. Our inept management of our borders and policing invited these people here and they have become our responsibility. Provisions should be attached which allow for deportation of criminals during the interim period.
Any illegals who do come here in the future should be denied access to public resources of all kinds, including health care, education, welfare, transportation, etc. This is the single biggest disincentive we can create to discourage their arrival. Though difficult, it must be done to stem the flow.
In addition, deportation should be administered at all levels of law enforcement and fines against employers who use illegal laborers should be prohibitively expensive.
Now, try to get elected with that approach. That’s the trick.