August 6, 2014
The world has become increasingly global and interconnected in the past 10-15 years. And while people have been on the move since time began, welcomed immigration has tended to move in step with economic conditions—rising when the local economy is strong enough to accommodate the influx of new people and dropping when it is weaker.
Today, it is estimated that more than 200 million people globally live outside their home countries, a number that has increased by more than 40% in the past decade, according to the United Nations. Immigrants now comprise 3.1% of the world’s population, up from 2.9% in 1990. No one knows for sure how many of the global immigrant population is illegal, but the International Organization for Migration in Geneva estimates the number to be between 15% and 20%.
Here, in the U.S., which at 42 million has more immigrants, legal and illegal, than any other nation, the media reports bits and pieces of the situation, but doesn’t seem to look at the big picture. Congress seems not to want to make the hard decisions and choices in an election year that are needed to address the issue and our President, well, he just doesn’t seem to want to deal with real issues except to orate or to use his “phone and pen.”
Today, across the globe, while the nationalities of the migrants may be different, governments in developed nations are facing huge local public pressure to increase border enforcement and security, even as they welcome legal immigrants to help combat a shortage of skilled labor, such as in Canada, or to back-fill a rapidly declining population, as in Japan.
Over the years, America has prospered through legal immigration. My relatives were German and my wife is Italian. Past legal immigrants to the U.S. and their families have helped make this country great. Recently, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times that described the positive impact Asian immigrants from Korea and Japan to Bangladesh have had on Orange County where I live. They noted that in a county of 3 million residents, today nearly 600,000 Asian Americans make their homes here, up more than 40% since 2000. They discussed the resulting diversity of restaurants, shopping malls, languages spoken and the transformation of sleepy communities into bustling commercial centers as all positive developments.
No matter where you live, positive legal immigration refreshes the community. The problem we face today is illegal immigration that has no true regulation and generally invites immigrants who often include the criminal element trying to escape from the pursuit of the authorities back home. Several years ago, I served on a Federal Grand Jury in Orange County. About 30% to 40% of our time was focused on deportation cases of illegal immigrants who had committed crimes in the U.S.
Many of our citizens see the negative impact of illegal immigration on the infrastructure of our country. It’s a fact that schools, medical facilities, police, related local services and other community resources are stretched well beyond capacity today even without the added burdens of illegal immigration.
When immigrants are legally living and working in the community they too look on the current situation with dismay. A friend of mine, June Farrell, told me the following story:
”My housekeeper is a citizen and a native of the Dominican Republic. She recently asked me what I thought about what’s happening on the border. She is totally perplexed. She came here legally, earned her citizenship, reared a fabulous 21-year-old son on her own as a single parent and now feels threatened by this onslaught. I told her the kids involved are pawns and regrettably must go home because they are here illegally and that maybe we can help them in their own country. I was thinking maybe we could devise something like a Marshall Plan. She asked how and where these kids are getting the money to come here in the first place if they’re so poor…and I asked her what mother sends a child on such a journey in the first place. She asked how we can stop this. I told her we have an election in November and we must ensure that the Congress is Republican so that maybe we can fence in our current President. She agreed. She’s worried about her own son’s chances in this country if we don’t stem the tide of illegals.”
The fact is illegal immigration needs to be stopped and stopped now. The White House can take immediate action to seal the border as Texas has tried by mobilizing its National Guard to assist the border patrol. If we are going to be global, we need legal immigration; but, first and foremost, we need immigration that’s legal, measured and that meets our country’s long-term needs and strategic priorities.