Joseph Ford Cotto
March 29, 2017
San Francisco Review of Books
After several years on the back burner, serious talk about enforcing immigration law finally returned – thanks to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. With his election, executive-level action was at long last taken.
Do not expect Congress to follow suit, however.
The last time a bipartisan consensus formed on immigration policy was in the then-majority-Democratic U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, it was centered around a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. Mercifully, this legislation did not get through the Republican-led U.S. House.
Among the GOP ranks, opposition to amnesty has solidified since Trump's victory and the 2014 midterm elections. Not long before Trump launched his bid, House GOPers rejected defense legislation because it would have provided for citizenship should an illegal serve in our military.
This move was met with strong criticism, including from center-right voices, which is what made it so commendable. When the rubber met the road, typically spineless politicians chose the more difficult, yet civic-minded, path. "The Honorable" gentlemen and gentlewomen indeed.
Still, kicking the can down the road no longer works. Illegal immigration has grown too vast and far too expensive. The time for legislative action is now, but it must be asked if said action will help or harm the situation.
Before anything else is mentioned, we must realize that the idea of rounding up and deporting illegal aliens en masse is unrealistic. The social consequences of this would surpass imagination, and there simply aren't enough law enforcement officers to do the job.
However, making citizens out of illegal aliens is a plan for abject failure. Not only would unlawful immigration be encouraged, but competition would soar for even the most menial of employment opportunities.
If one thinks it is difficult to build a good career in post-Great Recession America, just wait and see how hard it will be to make ends meet in post-amnesty America.
All too many illegal aliens have minimal interest in assimilating to our country's cultural norms and earn a substantial – yet illicit – salary through public assistance and/or government-funded private charities. Amnesty is not going to bring the average American any fortune whatsoever. Mitt Romney was onto something when he spoke about self-deportation.
Scores of Democrats support amnesty for building a permanent political majority. No small number of Republicans want a first-class seat on the gravy train as well; especially those whose constituents utilize illegal alien labor.
Few people understand this incredibly complex situation as well as Jo Wideman does. She is the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, a group which stands at the forefront of productively dealing with America's immigration quagmire.
"Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S. and the world at levels which will preserve the environment and a good quality of life for all," its website declares, later mentioning "that CAPS does not advocate blaming immigrants. We don’t blame people from other countries for wanting to come live here. We are pro immigrant – we strive to meaningfully uphold and nurture the American Dream for people who wants to come to the U.S. through legal channels in numbers that our environment and resources can reasonably accommodate (approximately 300.000 a year). We were founded on and conintue be focused on all aspects of population growth."
Wideman recently spoke with me about many issues relating to American immigration policy. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: President Obama used executive powers to, essentially, mandate his own version of the DREAM Act. His effort was ultimately found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Trump is now using executive authority to pursue his own beliefs on immigration policy. He too has run into trouble with the judiciary. Do you have any insight for him on how the presidency should be used regarding immigration matters?
Jo Wideman: There are areas of immigration law and policy where the President has great authority and others where Congressional action is required. President Obama’s DACA and DAPA amnesties impermissibly changed the legal status of those who were in the country illegally and gave them work permits after Congress had refused to pass such legislation.
In the areas of national security and refugee admissions, the executive branch has great authority. The Immigration and Nationality Act states that the President may suspend the “entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States [who] would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” President Trump’s executive order on this was hastily drafted and rushed into implementation. More careful planning and drafting will help withstand legal challenges.
While Trump has proven himself very adept at using the president’s bully pulpit, he should avoid as much as possible creating even more enemies by being unduly divisive and picking fights that he doesn’t need to. He has the House, Senate, and millions of the American people with him, and it would be better to legislate genuine immigration reform rather than rely mainly on executive orders that are more easily overturned by successors.
Cotto: To what extent was Trump's victory a repudiation of post-1965 American immigration policy, which has been embraced by both major parties?
Wideman: The premise of the question is correct, in that both major political parties have uncritically embraced immigration for half a century, and been unwilling to fundamentally reform our broken, overloaded, dysfunctional immigration system. Immigration was certainly a signature issue in his campaign and, likely, the key to Trump’s victory. Historians speak of waves of immigration to America, periods of high immigration followed by periods of low immigration. From 1920 to 1970, immigration averaged only 200,000 people a year. Recent decades have seen an inflow of one million per year, with no end in sight. The US now has three times as many immigrants as the peak number after the Great Wave of immigration at the dawn of the 20th century. In a few years, the immigrant portion of the US population will hit a new record and continue rising.
The sponsor of the 1965 Immigration Act, Senator Edward Kennedy stated, “Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same….” He was terribly wrong. If President Trump and Congress substantially reduce immigration, it will be a return to more traditional levels of American immigration and his victory will have affirmed and validated the American public who have long opposed the open borders policies of both political parties.