On the campaign trail, the immigration debate is at shrieking levels. Basically, two camps argue heatedly over whether the United States needs more or less immigration.
Advocates for expanded immigration argue that the system is broken, families must not be separated, and that individuals who come or want to come to the U.S. are seeking better lives.
Enforcement supporters counter that decades of one million legal, work authorized immigrants annually plus 750,000 guest workers and a steady stream of illegal aliens have saturated the employment market and put intense pressure on social programs, especially education.
The truth is that our immigration system really is broken because sound laws have been ignored since the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed 30 years ago. Families need not be separated; they can return to their native countries as a unit. Despite knowing that the consequences for unlawful entry include possible deportation, parents nevertheless choose to come illegally. If ordered deported, their decision then becomes whether to return home with their children or leave them with legal residents, possibly family members. Furthermore, despite the bluster to the contrary, children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents will not lose their citizenship. Should the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015, pending in the House, become law, it specifically insures that such children will retain their full citizenship rights.
Census Bureau data show that more than seven million illegal immigrants hold non-agriculture payroll jobs while 18 million Americans want but cannot find full time employment. Each of those 18 million would likely also like better lives. A Gallup Poll found that about 150 million people including 22 million Chinese, 18 million South Asians and 15 million Nigerians would like to migrate to the U.S., and compete with American workers, in their effort to find better lives. The global demand to migrate will always vastly exceed the U.S.’s capacity to accept those who would like to come here.
Immigration realists know that non-enforcement at the border and in the interior have serious consequences, not only by expanding the labor pool but also overwhelming K-12 education. Here’s a sampling of the chaos in public schools across America. In New York City, more than 70 percent of students cannot read, write or do math at grade level. Many of those children arrived last year during the Central American border surge, and many more who arrived in 2015 will be enrolling this fall.
In 123 Chicago schools, at least one-third of enrollees aren’t English proficient. In Topeka, Kansas, students speak 81 different languages. A large refugee influx in and around Topeka has contributed to a problem the city can’t cope with. California, home to more than 10 million legal and illegal immigrants—one in four of the 39 million total population—has 1.4 million public school students designated as English Learners. Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars fund this large and growing number of non-English speakers.
Nowhere in the immigration rhetoric—pro or con—is there a serious discussion focused on how Americans kids are adversely affected when a large arrival of new, non-English speakers suddenly enters their classrooms. Teachers’ time and lesson planning must be reallocated in an effort to reach out to the new students, a challenge greater than causal observers realize. Topeka school administrators said that a significant percentage of recently arrived students from distant lands are unfamiliar with pencils and notebooks. No teacher can overcome hurdles like that while at the same time imparting a sound education.
Despite effusive rhetoric among presidential candidates about creating jobs and providing secure futures for America’s children, the incompatibility of continued high immigration, fewer available jobs for citizens, and a less well educated population is never mentioned.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]