More than 25 years after the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986, Congress is deadlocked on what — if anything — to do next. In the last quarter of a century, open borders, no internal enforcement, a huge increase in non-immigrant visa issuance and record numbers of refugees have helped push America’s population to unsustainable levels.
During the 1980s, total U.S. population stood at about 230 million; today, it’s more than 316 million. According to the Census Bureau, one international migrant (net) arrives every 44 seconds which helps contribute to a net gain of one person per 13 seconds.
Population growth’s most easily controllable variable is federal immigration policy. Admit fewer people and growth will slow. Allow 1 million or more immigrants year after year — regardless of economic conditions or whether those immigrants might contribute to the economy — is inviting trouble.
If there’s one clear sign from the current congressional immigration debate over the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, it’s that the U.S. isn’t serious about restricting immigration no matter how many valid and irrefutable arguments are posed to control it. Americans’ best interests are served.
While the House refuses to take up the Senate’s shamelessly egregious bill that would triple immigration, it’s contemplating the KIDS Act, the DREAM Act revised, which would inevitably reduce the numbers of available freshman seats for citizen children. And earlier this summer, the House passed a bill that would more than double the H-1B visa category even though an increase in foreign-born workers undercuts U.S. engineers wages and locks them out of jobs.
Congress considers the KIDS/DREAM Act and increasing the H-1B cap as reform. But while those bills may appease immigration advocates and the big business lobby, they are anything but reform-oriented.
True immigration reform could be easily achieved in simple steps that would look nothing like the 1,000-plus page S. 744 where every sentence provides an exception, waiver, loophole or ambiguity. Instead of making promises that will never be fulfilled — like adding 20,000 more border patrol agents but without providing the funding for them — begin by completing the 700-mile border fence construction authorized in the 2006 by the Secure Fence Act.
More damaging than the lack of border security is a failure to monitor those who arrive legally on any of the four or five dozen visas available to overseas visitors. A Pew Hispanic Center study calculated that between 40 and 50 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstayers, including the B-1 category for tourists. Getting a visa, boarding an airplane and disappearing into the American mainstream is easier than hiring a coyote to cross the border under perilous conditions.
Because scamming the visa system is effortless, it’s terrorists’ preferred method of entering and staying undetected.
The Department of Homeland Security should develop the often discussed but never implemented “exit” portion of “entry-exit” and eliminate the fraud from the “entry.” An entry-exit program has been kicked around since 2002 with few results. An August 2012 DHS report issued by the Inspector General’s Office revealed more than 800,000 cases where biometric entry data did not match names or dates of birth.
Mandate E-Verify, a proven program that assures that every employee in the U.S. is legally authorized to hold a job. Although civil rights activists claim that E-Verify could infringe on liberties, their argument is not persuasive and, if challenged, would not stand up.
Congress’ lax approach to immigration is a disservice to Americans. Considering the few simple steps that Congress could take to develop an effective immigration system, what’s clear is that the political will to do it, always lacking, has completely vanished.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.