What is Commonsense Immigration Reform?

Published on November 21st, 2014

By Randy Alcorn
November 21, 2014

President Obama defends his use of executive fiat to protect five million illegal immigrants from deportation and to grant them work permits as commonsense immigration reform. He stresses that his edicts are not amnesty but rather a temporary reprieve that is limited mostly to those illegal immigrants with children and who have managed to avoid deportation for five years or more.

Although the president presents his actions as commonsense reform, the arguments he makes to support them are emotional, and, as is so often the case, emotion is the enemy of reason.

As much of the media is fond of doing, the president recounts sad stories of illegal immigrant families threatened with separation of parents from children. There are young children of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. who know no other country, and there are children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents. In both cases when the parents are deported the children suffer. Either the children are banished to a foreign land or, those born here, remain in the U.S and are separated from deported parents and siblings. 

The plight of these children is the source of much of the emotion in the immigration reform issue and the impetus for reform. The empathetic concern over these children, however, overrides the better judgment of some people, including the president, whose calls for immigration reform are really calls for more amnesty of one sort or another. Amnesty is not reform. It is capitulation that, as we have seen, only perpetuates illegal immigration.

Before we can have commonsense immigration reform, we must have commonsense. That requires objective reasoning, not emotion.

First, illegal entry into the U.S. is a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. You don’t get the privilege of permanent residency here simply by avoiding deportation long enough.

Next, Americans are not responsible for or to blame for the plight of the children of illegal immigrants. People who have children before they can support them, and parents who enter this country illegally are responsible for the plight of their children. The need to support one’s family is no more exoneration for illegal immigration than is stealing money to feed one’s family.

Most illegal immigrants are from Mexico, which has a vast wealth of natural resources, but a huge, impoverished population and a corrupt elite that uses the U.S. as a dumping ground for that potentially troublesome population. Mexico will never reform itself if it is allowed to export its problem population to the U.S.

The children of illegal immigrants currently living here are no more entitled to stay here than are the thousands of Guatemalan children who recently showed up at the U.S. border looking for a better life, or the millions of impoverished and endangered children around the world who would come here if they could. America cannot be the world’s daycare center.

If, as emotional immigration reformers argue, keeping families together is the justification for reform, then commonsense immigration reform would repeal that portion of the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to anyone breeching the womb on U.S. soil. Then, children born in the U.S. of foreign nationals would no longer be American citizens any more than mice born in a chicken coop are chickens. The problem of families separated by legal status would disappear because the entire family would be illegal residents. 

Commonsense reform would address the root of the illegal immigration problem, namely selfish, greedy employers who hire illegal immigrants because those immigrants accept very low wages and are not prone to demand higher pay or join unions. Commonsense immigration reform would insist that employers access a national electronic database to verify the residency status of all job applicants, and it would severely punish employers who did not comply. Granting work permits to illegal immigrants, as Obama will do, rewards those guilty employers.

Greedy employers along with pro-immigration forces like to warn that large sections of the U.S. economy would collapse if illegal immigrants were removed from the labor force. Really?

The urban myth that illegal immigrants do the work that Americans will not is debunked by simple empirical evidence that finds Americans doing that work when and where illegal immigrant labor is unavailable. Massive illegal immigration has lowered wage scales and replaced American workers in certain industries like construction and packing. Illegal immigrant labor benefits employers but not taxpayers who subsidize it with public education, health and welfare services, and law enforcement.

In the absence of cheap foreign labor, employers would have to pay more for legal workers. That would help alleviate the wage stagnation and the persistent high unemployment among America’s working class. There would be less pressure to impose minimum wage increases if employers could no longer take advantage of low wage illegal immigrant labor and had to pay market rates for legal workers? 

To fortify his emotional appeal, the president resorts to the hackneyed canard that America is a nation of immigrants. It is not. It is a nation of citizens bound together by a common culture, language, and code of law. America can no longer be the refuge for the world’s huddled masses. There are simply too many of them.

America’s immigration system is broken only to the extent that immigration law has not been diligently enforced. The only reforms needed are a few enhancements that promote enforcement, not a massive overhaul that, once again, forgives lawbreakers and keeps the flood gates open.

Randy Alcorn is a Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and can be reached at [email protected]

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