February 17, 2018
Dr. Stephen Parke
A nation built on the idea that disagreements and common ground can be found in debate; the very essence of democracy, the United States today finds itself so divided in political dogma that its security and safety is but a tagline left dangling like a carrot for political gain and opportunity. The current immigration debate is the dividing line between those who wish to protect the sanctity of the nation and those who wish to protect their political futures. Is there a solution to fixing this problem which will benefit the country and protect its sovereignty, while being just and humane to those affected? This paper will examine the current debate and endeavor to prove there is.
Once a nation of immigrants, now debating the issue of what to do with its immigrants. The irony isn’t lost in translation but debated upon with silly ideas of open borders and mass deportation. With so much vitriol, how can the nation, with its Congress, and Senate so divided, come to a comprehensive agreement which will benefit the country in security and keep the diversity which has always been its bedrock? This paper will look at the current issues concerning immigration debated in the Congress and the media, the proposals, executive orders, and possible solutions. From the ongoing DACA debate to considering amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, the current debate is all over the political map. To understand what should be done to fix the current system, let’s look at how the nation got into this mess in the first place.
How did we get here?
America has always been welcoming to immigrants from all over the world, from every walk of life, as long as they have the ambition to achieve a better life and a dream only thought possible by the freedom America provides. Its economic prosperity and potential that is the beacon shining brightly for hungry, ambitious, hardworking immigrants with dreams of a better life, which draws them to America. The process to come isn’t easy, nor is it quick; some may wait for years, and some may not be allowed to come at all. It’s these restrictions which many do not want to have to be restricted by. So instead of applying for a visa and waiting in line, they sneak across the border and enter illegally.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
In 1986, the country was faced with what to do with approximately 3 million people who had entered the country illegally. The Senate and House of Representatives took up debate on Senate Bill 1200: Immigration Reform and Control Act. During debate on the bill, President Reagan was promised by Congressional leaders if he signed the bill, the border would be secured and adequately funded, to prevent having a repeat later down the road. On November 6, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 into law. The key points in the bill were:
• Made it illegal to hire illegals
• Employers must vouch for their employee’s citizenship
• Legalized anyone who entered the country illegally before January 1, 1982
The bill provided a pathway to citizenship to approximately 2.7 million illegals with the promise to bolster the border patrol, making it more difficult for immigrants to cross which never happen. It’s inevitable failure lead too…
The Immigration Act of 1990
With the failure to secure the border and a greater demand for low wage workers, coupled with the possibility of another amnesty, illegal immigrants continued to stream into America at even higher rates. According to Larry Rother of the NYT “the immigration service says 1,008,145 apprehensions occurred in 1989, along the southern border.” Congress, along with the President hoped to slow it down by providing more opportunity for people to enter legally. So, on November 29, 1990, after a lengthy debate in the Congress, then-President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Immigration Act of 1990. The key points in the bill were:
• Increased overall legal immigration to 700,000
• Greatly widened the family visa program
• Created five new categories of work visa’s
• Created the Diversity Visa
• Increased the border patrol by 1,000
The intentions were to simplify the immigration law and streamline the process of allowing employers to hire foreign agricultural workers. It was also believed it would be family oriented by allowing immigrants to sponsor family members. But, it’s inevitable failure lead too…
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
A new Congress, a new President, a new effort at fixing the problems at the southern border. Previous legislation seems to have only exacerbated the issue by encouraging immigrants to cross illegally into the country in the knowledge that deportation is a low risk and another round of amnesty maybe imminent. This time the debate focused on the obvious elephant in the room, the root cause of why millions of illegals were still streaming into the country; a virtually open border. On September 30, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the law, enacting the following key provisions:
• Placed restrictions on illegal immigrants living inside the country
• Denied higher education funding for illegal aliens
• Gave vast new authority to the attorney general, enabling the construction of border barriers to be built in areas where illegal crossings are the highest
Though the debate focused on restricting illegals ability to apply for residency or visa, legalizing their ability to live within the country legally, it came under scrutiny by the Supreme Court on the Constitutionality over whether the law should be enforced retroactively. The new law had little to no effect on slowing the ever-increasing flow of illegals across the southern border. It’s inevitable failure lead too…
Central American Minors Program
The following decade saw proposal after proposal, hours and hours of debate, and no sensible legislation on fixing the immigration problem which has continued to snowball. Since taking office in 2008, President Barrack Obama had been pushing for passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. With little movement and a Congress against it, the President took action on his own and in November 2014 announced the Central American Minors Program to allow children escaping gang and drug violence from Central America, to legally reside in the country. The same year, according to Annie Chen, writing for the Journal of International Affairs, “approximately 60,000 children with no lawful immigration status and no parent or legal guardian present or available to provide care were apprehended at or near the U.S. border.” In fact, after the programs enactment, unaccompanied minors became to stream toward the border in record numbers. Once again, instead of providing a solution to the problem, the latest fix has only exacerbated the issue.
Current Immigration Reform Proposals by Congress
When conducting a search of current immigration reform bills introduced in the Congress and Senate for 2017-2019, the results return 234 bills; that amount of legislation is ridiculous and nonsensical. With so many bills on a single subject, it’s almost as if certain politicians aren’t serious about actual reform, but only want their name on a bill for political gain. Most will never make it to the floor for debate, but a few have potential and some may actually reach a vote.
DREAM Act of 2001
A bill introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, that would provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying illegal alien children. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) act has been debated in Congress since 2001 and still continues today. If passed the bill would provide grant a conditional residency and once those conditions are met, a permanent residency will be given. The conditions include:
• Must prove that they arrive before the age of 16
• If male register for the selective service
• Be of good moral character
• Be between 12 and 35 when the bill is enacted
• Graduated from an American high school or GED equivalent
With the current political climate and the hyper political nature of the immigration debate, those who qualify under the DREAM Act provisions, now known as dreamers, have themselves become politically active and are now essentially demanding citizenship. This entitlement mentality maybe a big part of why the public aren’t demanding this bill pass.
McCain-Kennedy Act 2005
In 2005, Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy introduced the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, better known as the McCain-Kennedy Act of 2005. The bill was supposed to secure the border and provide a legal status for those immigrants who reside illegally, approximately 10 million , in the U.S. before the bill is passed. It also allowed the Medicaid program to use funds to pay for reimbursements to hospitals for providing emergency care to illegal aliens. This bill had and has little to no possibility of passing because the border security aspect is nothing more than window dressing.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act 0f 2006
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 was billed as an all-encompassing bill that would finally fix the immigration issues that the nation had now been dealing with since the Amnesty of 1986. The only problem was, it wasn’t. It was in fact another amnesty rouse, shrouded in the myth of securing the border, while in truth it was called a comprehensive reform because it would have enacted a plethora of other immigration bills already withering on the vine. Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was quoted by the Washington Times as saying “It’s a typical Washington mess. It’s everybody compromises. … And when you look at these compromises, it is quite possible it will make things worse.” The Key points of the bill are:
• Allow approximately 12 million illegals to obtain “Z Visa”
• Allow 600,000 foreign workers to obtain a two year “Y Visa”
• Increase border patrol from 13,000 to 18,000
• Increase penalty for hiring illegals
• Enact the Border Tunnel Prevention Act
• Border Law Enforcement Relief Act of 2006
• Widows and Orphans Act of 2006
• Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act
• Fairness in Immigration Litigation Act of 2006
• September 11 Family Humanitarian Relief and Patriotism Act
And the list goes on and on. Without securing the border the bill was never going to pass and for the last decade since its initial proposal, it’s been debated upon in the Congress and in the media with very little fanfare.
Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act 2010
In 2010, Arizona grabbed the headlines across the country by passing its own immigration enforcement act, after years of the Federal Government refusing to protect the borders and its citizens from the continued mass flow of illegals across the southern border. Critics immediately began to criticize the law and according to Randal Archibald of the New York Times, “opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.” Mass protests were organized, as protesters marched on the state capital and a group of illegals stormed Sen. John McCain’s office demanding a repeal of the law. The key provisions of the law were:
• Prohibits local police agencies from adopting sanctuary-type policies
• During a lawful stop, directs law enforcement officers to determine immigration status of individuals who they reasonably suspect to be illegal aliens, and for all persons who are arrested
• Authorizes law enforcement agencies to securely transfer verified illegal aliens into federal custody
• Allows legal residents of Arizona to sue if they feel a government agency adopts a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
• Requires employers to maintain a record of an employee’s E-Verify eligibility verification for either (a) the duration of employment or (b) at least three years
In lite of the many restrictions it places on law enforcement to ensure abuses wouldn’t occur, those against any form of enforcement of immigration policy, demanded the law be struck down or repealed. Even the President Barrack Obama weighed in and had a face to face meeting with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to discuss his concerns with the law. On July 6, 2010, the DOJ filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to stop the implementation of the law. Ultimately the case went to the Supreme Court which ruled federal law will prevail when state and federal laws conflict and struck down major provisions of the law. Again, this begs the question, when the Federal Government refuses to act to protect the citizens and its very borders, don’t state governments have a duty to take action?
Common Sense Solutions
Trying to navigate through the weeds and the hyperbole to come to sensible solutions to the real issues that face the nation regarding illegal and legal immigration is possible, but it won’t be easy. It will take a lot of toughness and fortitude by patriots who aren’t afraid to take on the mainstream media and big business who want to protect their bottom-line by keeping open the spigot of cheap labor. Below are four simple proposals, which will bring positive results in securing the Southern Border and preventing employers from hiring illegal aliens, substantially cutting off the incentive to enter the country illegally.
Mandatory E-Verify is a proposal which would require all business owners to verify an employee’s legal ability to work in the U.S. The current version of E-Verify is voluntary and used by employers only if they wish. With mandatory E-Verify, employers would not be allowed to hire employees and pretend to be unaware of their status to work in the U.S. The current legislation in Congress is the Legal Workforce Act of 2017.
Get Tough Laws
The current laws on willfully employing non-citizens are not severe enough to deter breaking the law, also they aren’t being enforced. New get-tough laws need to be passed and enforced. A few of these should be:
• Confiscation of business and business license revoked indefinitely
• Mandatory minimum jail sentence
• Higher fines of $10,000 – $75,000 per person
• Crime should be classified as a felony
Without stiff penalties, nothing will change. The monetary value employers receive by
employing illegal aliens is almost to enticing to ignore. If the government takes this away and severely punishes law breakers, then this will prevent future abuses.
Southern Border Wall
The southern border is essentially open, with little to no obstruction. The areas that do have fencing or some type of barrier have seen a considerable drop off of illegal crossings. A border wall will need to be built across the southern border. Places where there is a natural obstruction such as rivers, lakes, or impassable terrain, no border wall will need to be obstructed. The arguments against a wall are usually it’s too costly, or it simply won’t stop them all. The cost can be reimbursed by taxing money sent by illegals back to their home countries. It doesn’t need to be a large tax, because over time, with the reduction in the amount of illegal’s crossing the border and the inability to legally work inside the U.S. expenditures on services provided to illegals can be shifted to border protection and paying for the wall. The current bill in Congress is H.R.1813 – Border Wall Funding Act of 2017.
Visa overstays are an extremely high percentage of those who are illegally living inside the U.S. The system needs to be revamped so persons overstaying their visa can be apprehended, punished and deported. According to a Washington Times article by Stephen Dinan, in 2016, “54 million visitors checked in….and nearly 630,000 of them didn’t go home.” That’s a staggering number of people, and that’s a problem that can’t go unchecked. The article also notes that almost all overstays go uninvestigated. Solutions need to be made and quick. Below are a few proposals:
• Better vetting of Visa applicants and stricter requirements to meet the minimum standards to apply
• More personnel on the interior following up on visa overstays
• Tougher penalties for those who violate their visa
• Require personnel who receive a Visa to make a deposit that will be refunded when they exit or retained if they fail to leave the country
Visa overstays have become a severe problem to fix, but with sensible proposals, it can be brought back to manageable numbers. Requiring all Visa recipients to make a deposit upon entry will eliminate a significant portion of those who refuse to leave, and it will provide much-needed funds for policing those who overstay. It’s not a total solution, but it’s a start.
In conclusion, any immigration reform is going to be very difficult due to the political class which has given credence and legitimacy to those already inside the country illegally. The will of the American people to protect their culture, language, and heritage will be tested to bring about the needed reforms to fix the immigration fiasco that currently exists. Many reasonable proposals in the Congress would make great strides in fixing the issues at the border and enforce the law as its written; it’s just going to take men and women who care about the country and its survival, more than they care about their careers as a politician. The founding fathers didn’t envision career politicians when they drafted the Constitution; this is why they left out term limits. They envisioned the farmer, leaving his farm for a few years to answer the call and serve in Congress. Once his term was up, he was expected to go back to his life as a farmer. If we can get back to that, then there wouldn’t be an immigration problem or an open border. Politicians would do what’s right and what’s needed to protect the country and not their political future.
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