We have been a nation of “multi-taskers” even before the arrival of the cell phone. That is why it was so perplexing to see a majority of U.S. citizens saying for so long that when it came to immigration reform, we must secure our borders before we attempted to solve the problem of what to do with the eleven million who are here illegally. Polls revealed that public opinion had changed little on this issue over the last three years – until recently.1,2,3
Unfortunately, there are still significant members of Congress who are in favor of “borders first,” then work on the citizenship problem. As Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah said in an interview yesterday with Martha MacCallum on Fox News:
“And the very first thing we need to do is secure the border. And we also need to reform our antiquated, outdated visa system – our legal immigration processes… Then we’ll be in a better position to figure how best to treat the eleven million people who are here illegally with dignity and respect and respect for the rule of law. But these things can’t all be all wrapped together. They can’t all happen at once.”
Securing Our Borders Will Take a Lot of Time… And Money
OK, so how much border are we dealing with? The U.S. / Mexico border is 1,954 miles long and the U.S. border with Canada (not including Alaska) is 3,987 miles.4 Of course, this doesn’t include Florida’s coastline and the rest of our states on the Gulf of Mexico.
We’ve spent $75 billion on border control “without making a lasting difference” in the last ten years. This is proven in that we have had operational control of just 44% of our borders according to the most recent figures from the Government Accountability Office.5 Consequently, we have a long way to go in terms of tax dollars, too.
Everyday life tells us that we can never be completely secure anyway. Thus, waiting before addressing the second part of immigration reform is merely ill-advised procrastination.
Bad Immigration Policies are Hurting the U.S. Economy
Besides unnecessarily increasing societal stress by having the eleven million to wait an extended time for a resolution of their status, it’s also wasteful. In a forum on immigration last year, it was noted that a study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center estimated that an increase in $1.5 trillion GDP over ten years could be realized with the creation of a commonsense immigration process.6 In addition, forum host Carl Ruby reminded the gathering that “undocumenteds are sitting on money to invest.” How often have we heard economists and financial advisors reprimand us that money “hidden in a mattress” is bad for both the owner and for the economy?
Another member of the panel illustrated an unappreciated drawback to our current system. In some cases it would take 35 years for computer programmers to immigrate from India. As a result, they stay home and the U.S. company outsources the work to India keeping their buying power and income taxes there.
It’s Not All “Take” for “Illegals”
While many believe that illegal/ undocumented aliens can be a drain our social justice system, it works in reverse, too. For example, some obtain work by acquiring fake I.D.’s. This turns out costing them. By having to work in this manner, they pay into the Social System, but they’ll never be able to collect. (All right, that may not make them any different from current young working citizens, but let’s overlook that for the moment.) Estimates are that their employment sends $6-8 billion annually to the federal government which will not be returned to them.
A dangerous threat accompanies those who are seasonal workers following crops from six to nine months of the year. Mr. Ruby noted that these are the conditions which lead to human trafficking.
Sister Maria Stacy, Director for Hispanic Catholic Ministries at St. Mary’s, talked about the disruption of families when the father is deported, but the wife and children stay behind. She reminded us that we are still the same country which has said, “Give me your tired, your poor and your huddled masses.” Therefore, “in the absence of possibilities to enter legally, we need to be compassionate.”
The Time is Now for a Two-Pronged Strategy to Immigration Reform
Dayton, Ohio Police Chief Richard Biehl cautioned that continuing to delay resolving citizenship issues “jeopardizes our public safety mission.” Local officers are being asked to handle non-threatening problems like the presence of undocumenteds instead of concentrating on more serious situations.
Michael Hamilton, Executive Editor for the Ohio Conservative Review, reminded the audience that “the rule of law is indispensible… but some laws are not conducive to a more just society.” Earlier, Carl Ruby said that the civil rights movement changed bad laws instead of insisting on enforcement. He stressed that the same problem exists with our immigration laws today.
Therefore, we must act expediently toward a just immigration reform. A vast majority of those who have entered our country illegally did not do so with the intent of ruining our nation as some extremists who have entered legally.7, 8 In fact, many entered legally, but have simply overstayed their visas.9
A blanket amnesty, however, shows disrespect to legal immigrants who worked within the system and it undermines our system of law. It sends the wrong message and creates division. We can remedy the problem with a fair qualification process for would-be U.S. citizens while protecting our borders at the same time.
Our nation has thrived, not because we are the fragile thoroughbreds of sameness, but because we have combined to form the best of many ethnic backgrounds. To wait until “our borders are secure” will ensure turmoil and hasten our decline from within.
1 – “A Fox News poll released Friday asked American voters what should happen first: 59 percent think the government should secure the border first, while 30 percent think the priority should be new legislation.
Large numbers of Republicans (72 percent) and independents (65 percent) support securing the border first. Views are fairly evenly split among Democrats, with a slim plurality putting border security (44 percent) before Congressional action (41 percent).
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from June 29 to June 30. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.” From “Fox News Poll: Secure the Border First, by Dana Blanton, posted 7/2/2010 on www.foxnews,com
2 – CNN Poll: 62% Say Border Security Needs to be First Priority in Immigration Policy Tuesday, June 18, 2013, posted on NumbersUSA
A new CNN/ORC International survey found that 62% of Americans say border security should be the main focus of U.S. immigration policy, while only 36% say a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens should be the top priority.
Across all income brackets and all education levels, more Americans overwhelmingly support increased border security over a pathway to citizenship.
For Americans 35 and older, increased border security as a top priority is supported by huge margins.
Sixty-five percent of Independents favor an increase in border security over a path to citizenship. Americans in every region of the country overwhelmingly support border security as the top priority.”
3 – “On November 2-3, 2013, Basswood Research conducted a survey of likely general election voters in 20 congressional districts. These districts are widely viewed as the 20 most competitive ones currently held by Republican incumbents. The districts surveyed were: CA-10, CA-21, CO-6, FL-2, FL-10, IA-3, IL-13, IN-2, MI-1, MI-7, MI-11, MN-2, NE-2, NV-3, NY-11, NY-19, NY-23, OH-6, OH-14, PA-8.
The survey was conducted by live professional interviewers by telephone. The overall sample size was 1000, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, at a 95% confidence interval. Each district contributed 50 interviews to the sample; as such, data in individual districts is much less reliable.”
” When presented with three options regarding the interconnection between border security to prevent future illegal immigration and citizenship for those who are presently in the country and undocumented, the following responses were found:
17% oppose a pathway to citizenship under all circumstances;
26% favor a pathway to citizenship even without any increase in border security;
50% favor a pathway to citizenship if it also includes substantially increased border security.
76% favor a pathway to citizenship, with or without enhanced border security.
• The partisan composition of these 20 districts favors Republicans.
By party registration/affiliation, respondents in this survey were 39% Republican, 35% Democratic, and 23% Independent. The generic party preference for Congress was +6.7 points Republican.
from “RNC Reince Priebus Didn’t Get November 2013 Basswood Research Immigration Poll Memo,” posted by Somos Independents, 11/14/2013
4 – according to Wikipedia
5 – from “It’s time to get serious about border security,” posted on www.chron.com (web site of the Houston Chronicle) by Michael McCaul, a Republican representing Texas’ 10th Congressional District, is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Ted Poe, a Republican representing Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade and vice chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, 8/15/2013 and updated two days later
6 – Roundtable Discussion on Immigration Reform held at St. Mary’s Church in Dayton, Ohio on 8/12/2013, hosted by Ohio Conservative Review featured contributor, Dr. Carl Ruby of the Evangelical Immigration Table and Bibles, Badges, and Business for Immigration Reform.
7 – “…48 foreign-born militant Islamic terrorists have been charged, or convicted, or have admitted their involvement in terrorism within the United States between 1993 and 2001… At the time they committed their crimes, 16 of the 48 terrorists considered in this analysis were on temporary visas (primarily tourist visas); another 17 were lawful permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens; 12 were illegal aliens; and 3 of the 48 had applications for asylum pending.” from “How the Terrorists Get In” by Stephen A. Camarota, September 2002, Center for Immigration Studies
8 – “GAO found that 36 of the roughly 400 people convicted of terrorism-related charges since September 2001 had overstayed their visas.” From the same source as listed in footnote #3
9 – “… (2011) report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed 40-45 percent of the estimated total population of illegal aliens — 4 to 5 million people – stayed past their visa expiration dates. But DHS’ U.S. VISIT program – which is supposed to identify people who overstay their visas by comparing entry and exit information – cannot keep up with the number of potential overstays it identifies by matching entry and exit records.
In fact, US-VISIT processes less than half of the potential overstays it identifies, and GAO found that the program has a backlog of 1.6 million potential overstay records.” From “Almost Half of Illegal Aliens Entered U.S. Legally, But Overstayed Visas: Senators Say,” by Jim Kouri CPP, www.aim.org, 5/2/0/2011