It’s really complicated. . . .
By Dr. Larry Fedewa (January 13, 2019)
The immigration situation in the United States is a total mess. Yes, we need barriers where terrain permits. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. To snapshot the most urgent challenges, let’s look at three of the categories of immigration policy that need to be fixed: 1) border enforcement, 2) citizenship qualifications, and 3) visa procedures.
- Barriers – Right now there are long stretches of the southern border which have no impediments to anyone crossing from Mexico to the USA other than the occasional presence of Border Patrol agents. There are not enough of these agents available to present a consistent obstacle to trespassers. In fact, it would take an army to effectively guard all these approaches. The only effective deterrent in such terrain is a wall, such as that in San Diego, which has reduced alien traffic by 96% (since 1986 before the wall was built.) Also, such barriers work both ways to prevent human trafficking in and out of the USA.
- Catch and Release – current laws provide that anyone caught illegally entering the USA can be deported back across the border, UNLESS the individual claims asylum. In that case, the person must come before a US judge who will determine whether the claim is valid or not. Since the word is out among the masses, nearly all the illegals now claim asylum. But there are not enough judges to handle the caseload of thousands of migrants. Nor are there anywhere near adequate facilities to house the asylum-seekers until they can appear before the court. This has led to “catch and release” the defendants with a summons to appear before the court sometime in the future, usually months. These folks are turned loose – in many cases never to be seen again.
- Detention facilities – recent months have witnessed an ever-growing population of families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum as opposed to the traditional petitioners who were usually unattached males. Current facilities have been overwhelmed and this has led to some tragic outcomes, including the deaths of children. The costs of providing adequate facilities and services for illegal aliens awaiting court appearances could soon rival the federal prison system if that solution were to be chosen. Otherwise, the law has to be modified to allow such applicants to be turned away pending presentation of an authorized visa. Enactment of such legislation would undoubtedly help reduce the flow of caravans and the like, as the word spreads.
- Smugglers – one effect of the San Diego wall has been the increase of highly sophisticated devices used to smuggle contraband, especially illegal drugs, through the ports of entry. The wall has virtually stopped “open air” smuggling and funneled all traffic through the legitimate border crossing stations which require far more ingenious methods of concealment. The enforcement therefore must keep pace with the use of increased staffing and technology.
- DACA (“deferred action for childhood arrivals”)– The claim to citizenship by children brought to the USA illegally by undocumented parents has been an unsolved problem for a long time. Technically, these people are illegal aliens, but they have never known any other country than the USA. Their status must be resolved by legislation. Advocates seek a “path to citizenship” since the individuals are not responsible for what their parents did. Opponents view such concessions as rewarding illegal behavior. Generally, public opinion seems to favor enactment of a reasonable path to some form of legal status, whether a renewable work visa, citizenship, or some other solution. Democrats view this population as a gold mine of potential Democrat votes – which has been the underlying factor for Republican opposition, although President Trump has signaled his support for a reasonable solution.
- Worker visas – a significant source of support for relaxed immigration policies has been employers who depend on seasonal workers for their survival, especially agriculture. A seemingly obvious solution to this need is a “guest worker visa” program, which would authorize an individual to enter the USA on a temporary basis to perform designated services, such as a (fruit) picker or a grain harvester. Such a visa would be for a designated period of time (such as, April to October) and renewable each year.
- Visa enforcement – a majority of illegal aliens residing in the United States are people whose temporary visas have expired. The most common category is student visas, issued so that a person can enter and reside in the USA in order to study in a US university. A typical student visa is good for five years, and typically is renewable. Millions of foreign students, however, overstay their visas. Enforcement by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) varies from sporadic to non-existent.
- H-1B and L-1 Visas – called “high tech visas”. These are guest worker visas which are restricted to holders of university degrees, which are held by the employer (not the worker), and are issued for 24 months, renewable once. These are the types of immigrants which are needed increasingly by the US job market as high technology replaces unskilled or “blue collar” jobs for a declining native population. However, there are problems with these programs. Specifically, US firms have been exploiting the H-1B program by hiring foreigners at below standard wages in preference to Americans. Also, the foreign worker is totally at the mercy of the American employer, since he does not have any bargaining power, and can be not only fired but also deported at the whim of the employer.
- Visa Processing — . Worker Visas lead to the topic of citizenship in general. This topic is also multi-faceted and too complicated to discuss here in depth. However, here are the highlights:
- National immigration strategy – with a low birth rate and an ever-expanding demand for high technology workers, the USA must depend on highly skilled immigrants to maintain its economic and lifestyle evolution. The national strategy must therefore be “friendly” to this international population. But currently our posture is exactly the opposite. For example, America’s science and technology educational institutions are the envy of the world, and many countries send the best and brightest students to the USA for their education. So one would think that this is the population that Americans would seek to enlist in permanent relocation and citizenship. On the contrary, however, our laws are very restrictive and frequently hostile to such outcomes – limited visas, employer-held, green cards are the best case, bureaucratic nightmare for citizenship, importing families, and taxes – to name a few issues. Our whole posture needs to be re-vamped.
- Embassy-based visa applications. This is a complicated, difficult, endless process run in foreign countries by the State Department. For them it is a pain in the neck – and their results show it. This whole procedure should make it easy for qualified foreigners to visit, work, and even migrate to the USA. The burden of this whole process should be removed from the diplomats and given to Homeland Security – ICE or Border Patrol or some agency which would take it seriously.
- National database of authorized aliens. The time has come. If we ever expect employers to enforce immigration policies, we have to give them the tools to make such responsibilities feasible and enforceable.
Summary – Comprehensive immigration policy is indeed complicated with many issues. But its time has come. Whether or not Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands the urgency of these situations, the crisis delayed for a generation is now upon us. Congress can no longer shirk its responsibilities – the President will not allow it! The nation demands action.
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