Conservative Principles, Red Lines, and Ideas on Immigration

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Immigration, News

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When it comes to the issue of immigration, there are diverse opinions among Republicans and some conservatives.  However, as conservatives, there are certain fundamental goals and red lines that we should all unite behind as we debate this issue.  All conservatives must share the common goal of ending illegal immigration once and for all.  Even those conservatives who believe in some sort of amnesty must share the ultimate goal of ensuring that this never happens again.  To that end, any true immigration reform must not be “comprehensively” tied to amnesty; it must be built upon enforcement first, with policies that would eliminate the magnet of future waves of illegal immigration.

ENFORCEMENT:

There is only one way to ensure that enforcement measures are implemented before any amnesty takes effect.  That is to decouple any enforcement provisions from amnesty, while ensuring that the measures are implemented and working effectively several years prior to the passage of any legislation awarding any legal status to illegal immigrants.  This waiting period is important not only to ensure that a recalcitrant administration actually implements the legislative proposals, but to confirm whether the enforcement measures are upheld in the court system after the inevitable lawsuits ensue.

Here are some guidelines for enforcement preconditions:

  • Border: The border fence is constructed, the border patrol is unshackled and allowed to do their job, and apprehensions come to a near stand-still.
  • Visa Tracking:  At least half of all illegal immigration is the result of people overstaying their temporary visas.  A full biometric visa entry-exit tracking system must be implemented and working at all land, sea, and airport entry points.  Unless it is working fully prior to any amnesty proposal, we will see a flood of new people coming in on temporary visas to utilize the impending legalization.
  • Workplace Enforcement: Aside for actual enforcement, we must dry up the magnet.  Despite the complaints about E-Verify, it is cheap, reliable, and easy to use.  Mandatory E-Verify would dry up the biggest magnet of future illegal migration.
  • Anchor Babies:  At present, our legal system operates under the false notion that the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship for any child born here from someone who entered illegally.  This has created the allure of anchor babies, and serves as a huge magnet for illegal immigration.  Obviously, any anchor baby already born here is a legal citizen, but we need to fix this going forward.  It will be challenged in the courts, but we have a strong case to make that the 14th Amendment never included children of illegals.
  • Interior Enforcement:  At present, we have a perverse reality in which states and localities that uphold federal immigration laws are sued by the federal government, while states and localities that thwart the immigration laws through “sanctuary city” policies are not punished.  Any enforcement legislation must unambiguously extend states the power to uphold federal immigration laws.  We need the confidence that in the event the current or future administrations fail to uphold the law, states will have the power to take up the prerogative.  Those jurisdictions that undermine immigration laws should be penalized.
  • Benefits: Close the loophole that allows illegals to receive the Additional Child Tax Credit with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Criminal Immigrants:  As much as 30% of our federal prison population is composed of illegal immigrants.  In light of the bipartisan agreement that we must deport all criminal immigrants, why are we not embarking on the process of removing some of them from prison and deporting them?

Only if and when most or all of the aforementioned enforcement provisions are in place, will it make sense to discuss any ideas of a guest worker program, legalization, and possible pathways to citizenship.

AGRICULTURAL GUEST WORKER PROGRAM:

Many conservatives from heavily agriculture districts have expressed concerns that there are not enough visas granted for temporary migrant workers.  Other conservatives have been concerned that the open borders lobby would use these temporary visa increases as a means of importing more low-skilled permanent immigrants.  However, after the full enforcement of visa entry and exit in place, we would be able to establish a guest worker program with the confidence that they wouldn’t stay in the country indefinitely.  Moreover, only after we implement welfare reform and qualify our citizenship laws to confer citizenship only on children born from at least one parent who holds a green card, can we be assured that temporary workers don’t become permanent recipients of the welfare state.

AMNESTY:

Once the enforcement mechanisms are put in place and are successfully drying up the flow of illegal migration, we can begin to discuss what to do with the current group of illegals.  In a climate of complete and effective enforcement to prevent future waves of illegal immigration, many more conservatives would be open to some sort of legalization process, which honestly, is amnesty – something we should be honest about if we plan to pursue it.  However, before we sign onto any legalization process, the following concerns must be addressed:

  • Welfare: We spend close to $1 trillion in combined federal and state means-tested programs.  Any amnesty plan that provides current or future access to welfare for 12 million predominantly low-skilled illegals is unacceptable.
  • Chain Migration: Any amnesty plan that allows the new residents to petition for their relatives to come to the country would blow up our immigration system in a way that is unsustainable.
  • LPR Status:  Theoretically, a plan to make them permanent legal residents with no path to citizenship would solve the welfare and voting problems.  But conservatives would need to gather together legal scholars to ascertain if it is feasible to wall off those rights once they become legal.  Moreover, we must figure out how to prevent future congresses from granting them full citizenship once they are already here legally.

Unless the aforementioned concerns are addressed, no conservative should support ANY legalization.

LEGAL IMMIGRATION:

Only in Washington, D.C. can politicians get away with saying they cannot deal with our broken legal immigration system before they grant amnesty to those here illegally.  Our current system is the result of Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) 1965 immigration bill, which tilted the system towards low-skilled immigrants from the third world and is biased against high-skilled workers.  This might have worked during last century when there was no welfare state.  But with the current smorgasbord of welfare programs available, the steady flow of low-skilled legal immigrants has helped balloon the size of our welfare programs.  Any serious commitment to an immigration system that benefits the country at large, and is not a burden on American citizens, would include the following:

  • Immediately abolish the inane diversity visa lottery which grants 50,000 visas to third world countries.  Concurrently, identify those high-skilled immigrants who benefit the broad populace, not just the special interest, and make it easier and cheaper for them to become citizens.
  • Reduce the number of low-skilled immigrants, at least temporarily, so we can work on assimilating the 40 million immigrants who are already in the country.  As a whole, we do not need more low-skilled immigrants en masse.  If we plan to create a temporary guest worker program it should be established in lieu of low-skilled immigration, not on top of it.
  • A stronger system in place that will screen people who come from countries that represent a security risk.  There have been dozens of attempted terror attacks on American soil over the past decade.  Almost all of them have been planned by those who came here legally from such countries.  Conservatives should seriously consider the recommendations from the 9/11 commission with regards to immigration reform.  We should also reinstate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required those visa recipients from countries that represent a security risk to register with an ICE office and report regularly about their plans in the United States.
  • Conservatives must also have an internal debate over what level of legal immigration is desirable for our country at this juncture.  We all agree that legal immigration is a net positive, but the question is how much?  Over the past 15 years, we have, on average, doubled the annual legal immigration rate from 500-600,000 to over 1 million.  With states like California estimated at toughly 26% foreign born and patriotic assimilation on the decline, we must consider how future flow will affect the cohesiveness of our nation and preserve our successful model as a melting pot.

The first priority of immigration is to benefit the country and current residents as a whole.  Our immigration system must be measured, gradual, and deliberate so as to foster upward mobility and patriotic assimilation instead of balkanization and welfare dependency – all for the benefit of parochial interests.