It is common to see guests on Fox News and other conservative spokespersons hammer away at the idea that the US needs to immediately “Secure our Borders” from illegal Mexican entrants. Polls show that most Americans want to “secure our borders” before we tackle immigration reform legislation; the idea being that we need first to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.
Stopping the flow of illegal immigrants can be summed up in that three word catchphrase, but “securing the border” is much easier to say than to do. Over two-thirds of all illegal immigration in the world happens outside the Mexican-US sphere. Spain struggles mightily with immigrants from Morocco. The country of Georgia is continually trying to deal with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from Asia, who ultimately desire to end up in EU countries. Many people leave poor African countries to immigrate illegally to richer countries on the same continent.
In fact, there is no pragmatic way to completely stop the flow of people into the United States or any other country, no matter how many times Sean Hannity proclaims that we need to “Secure our Borders” on the Fox network. Erecting physical barriers, using electronic technology and increasing the number of border patrol agents can reduce the numbers of entrants at best. If we really want to keep undocumented foreigners from living and working in the United States we will have to concentrate on the employers who hire them. This is done occasionally with raids on poultry processing plants, etc. but such actions are “hit and miss”, doing little to stem the tide of illegal workers.
In fact, actions in the interior of the US will do far more to reduce the number of illegal entrants than actions at the border. The real key is better documentation and identification of those who are hired in the United States, along with stiff penalties for businesses who employ illegal workers. This would make it difficult for illegal aliens to find work. With no work there is little incentive to come to the United States. Among other immigration reforms we could:
1. Abandon the policy stating that any child born in the United States is automatically a US citizen. Children of illegals need not have this status, which breaks up families when parents are deported.
2. Supply no welfare or public services (including schooling) for those not holding legal visas; or to any of their families.
3. Abolish “same day registration” in all US public elections, where one person can simply “vouch” for another without proper documentation. All US voters should have to register at least 30 days before an election, proving their citizenship.
4. Legitimate English proficiency exams should be required of the children of first generation immigrants, with deportation a certainty if English is not learned.
While the above actions could reduce the numbers of illegal immigrants, we better think seriously about what we wish for. Without the legions of illegal workers currently in the US, wages (and costs) will rise. There will be no more cheap landscapers or reasonable “day labor” for contractors. Who is going to pick the grapes and avocados? Who is going to clean hotel rooms or wash dishes? Without legions of extra workers, US productivity will slump, which will impact all producers and consumers in the United States.
Immigration reform is a many-faceted monster with lots of sharp barbs. No one in their right mind could claim this is easy.
In the context of the American dream, those who want to live and work in this immigrant-built country should continue to have that opportunity. Ways need to be devised in which adequate numbers of immigrants can live the American dream, without making a mockery of American citizenship.