The hot topic of the day is the announcement from President Obama on Thursday night about his intentions to take Executive Action on Immigration Reform. This was met with very mixed emotions for various reasons, a couple of which I’ll address.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which he believed would give a pathway to citizenship for roughly 1-2 million who may qualify based on certain measures. Also included in this bill (which was passed legislatively by Congress like every other immigration bill) were provisions and penalties for employers who knowingly hired illegal workers. Reagan believed that in order to curb illegal immigration, they must cut off the job magnet that was allowing it to grow. This and other provisions, such as increased border control, would greatly reduce the number of immigrants illegally entering the country. Shortly after the bill’s passage, enforcement of the border was slowed and the rate of new illegal immigration grew to record amounts in under 12 months. Many friends and relatives of the recently amnesty-ized immigrants flooded the nation, which in turn led to 6 more amnesty actions taken between 1994-2000. By then, legal status had been awarded to roughly 3 million once illegal immigrants.
In 1986 when Reagan signed the Immigration bill, roughly 5 million immigrants were in the country illegally. Within 10 years of this bill, illegal immigrants were coming into the US at a rate of an estimated 800,000 per year, and by 1996, the US again had roughly 5 million illegals and growing. The same types of fixes were applied which granted, under certain stipulations, a legalization pathway for a great number of those who had entered illegally. Each time, rather than the problem being eradicated, it only temporary patched it in the short term while causing a greater influx in the long term. Now as we sit here in 2014, an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants are currently living in the US and we are again attempting the same flawed patches that we have tried time and again.
Many may then argue that Obama can’t be held at fault, since Mr. Conservative himself, Ronald Reagan, also supported amnesty. This is a flawed argument. The bill Reagan passed was one of the first of its kind, and sought to end it for good. In hindsight, many conservatives recognized that unless border security was enforced first, this problem would never go away. What this bill actually did was entice many illegal immigrants to follow the same paths as those before them since we had set a precedent patching the problem rather than solving it.
So here’s what I have to say to this issue. President Obama during his speech made the issue one that deeply touched him, and went as far as using scripture to justify why he felt this was so important. I find that troubling and hard to believe for a couple of reasons. First, it isn’t like this issue just sprung up on him. It’s been a major issue since the day he stepped in office. When he became President in 2009, he had a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress where he could have passed virtually anything he wanted (a la Obamacare). He for whatever reason decided not to. More recently, he’s asked a divided Congress to form a bill to address the issue, and for whatever reason a consensus hasn’t been made. He had plenty of time prior to the midterm elections to make this announcement of Executive Action, however he elected not to. My point is, although he talks about this issue now as though it means the world to him, he did nothing about it in the previous six years, especially the first two years whenever his party had full control. This suddenly turns into a political play that anyone who actually watches behind the scenes rather than just listens to some teleprompted speeches can see.
A true solution includes a couple of things. First, and the reason that many Republicans have rejected his offers thus far, is that we must secure the US border. The motive behind this isn’t that we want to prevent those seeking to come to this great nation for a better life from coming, but rather it is now a true issue of national security. In a time where terrorism is rampant, we simply cannot allow just anyone to sneak across our borders and jeopardize our people. The number one job of the Federal Gov’t is to protect its citizens (no it isn’t to pay for their healthcare, unemployment, retirement, etc.). Also, if we continue to have this influx of people illegally entering, then we continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to finally putting an end to this issue.
Second, President Obama was correct in stating that attempting to deport 11 million people would be nearly impossible. The problem is that we’ve waited until the issue has gotten out of control until we decided to address it (much like every other gov’t issue). Because of this, a pathway would need to be made for those illegals who are willing to play by the rules. Many would qualify, and some would not. However, the intention would be that this is the last time something like this happened while we continue to curb illegal immigration while continuing the path of deportations for those who don’t play by the rules.
Third, we must look at the current rules for legal immigration and access to citizenship and determine why it is that so many people are choosing to come here illegally vs the legal route. America is a country like no other in the history of civilization. It has prospered in ways that people in the past couldn’t dream of, and all citizens have had an opportunity to prosper. Because of this, many people from other countries seek to find a new home in America, and rightfully so. We want to be the place that these individuals are welcome and the people who are compassionate enough to receive them with open arms. Once you address the legal immigration rules and make any necessary changes to make this a viable option for anyone seeking to find a home here, you then enforce a zero tolerance on anyone who still chooses to forego that route for an illegal route. At this point, there is no excuse for an influx in illegal immigration and no future amnesty bills shall be an option (by law if necessary).
Lastly, another one of the big issues of legal and illegal immigration is the burden on current taxpayers. As of 2010, the estimated cost of illegal immigration on the American taxpayers comes out to $113 billion dollars annually, with about $84 billion being absorbed by state and local governments. Many states who struggle with budget deficits, including California and New York, could actually see their budget deficits become balanced or likely surplussed simply by cutting the cost of illegal immigration. This is an issue that is hurting our economy, and simple temporary amnesty will not solve the problem.
Anyone who opposes shutting down the border before granting amnesty doesn’t truly want reform… they want votes and political gain. This again is an issue of national security and must precede any further changes that are made. Without this vital component, nothing else that is done to resolve this issue will be done successfully. Whether President Obama’s Order will effect the landscape of the future is yet to be seen. I do know that although he talks about wanting to work together, his actions now have further crippled his relationship with Republicans in Congress, who will soon control both chambers of Congress. Unlike EVERY other President before him, rather than finding ways to truly meet in the middle with opposing parties, he’s decided to try and go around them. This looks to be a long two years coming ahead of us. It may truly turn out to be a lame duck period if his rhetoric doesn’t change quickly.