Immigration reform is the story that will not die. It might be on life support, as I recently wrote, but today the New York Times reports Speaker John Boehner is letting it be known he favors some “reforms” and will bring them to a vote in 2014. They are the usual amnesty-inducing garbage we are accustomed to hearing about: more uneducated/unskilled workers to alleviate the non-existent “labor shortage” in agriculture, and of course, clemency for Dreamers, the children of illegal immigrants. It does not appear Speaker Boehner will support the Senate bill in toto, but these reforms, if passed, will end up in a caucus with the Senate where the Senate’s leaders may prevail. It’s a very pessimistic scenario. Let’s pray for gridlock.
Sensible House members may want to consider four reforms of our immigration laws that are desperately needed.
1. End birthright citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was enacted just after the Civil War to enfranchise the freed slaves and make them “citizens” of their states and the U.S. over the objections of the Southern states. Nobody at the time thought they were enfranchising the children of illegal immigrants, a non-existent phenomenon. Congress should try to end birthright citizenship for children born of illegal immigrants, few of whom would be here if we had a sensible policy. It will be challenged and likely end up in the Supreme Court. If the Court holds the Fourteenth Amendment is a suicide pact, then we’ll need to amend it Such an amendment will be very popular.
2. Tie Immigration to Unemployment. There is no justification for admitting new people into the labor market to compete for scarce jobs against American citizens. We still have persistently high unemployment, well above 5%. Immigration should only be allowed If unemployment is low and the immigrants have the requisite skills to help our economy. The need for more unskilled and uneducated immigrants is long over. Our economy has been evolving from from that kind of labor for decades. Let’s bring the immigration system in line with economics. We’ve already made life very hard for Americans with low (high school) education. The most compassionate thing we can do for them is to cut off more immigration into their labor markets.
3. Immigrants Must Have Sponsors. All immigrants should have U.S. citizen financial sponsors who sign surety bonds. If an immigrant becomes unemployed or otherwise becomes a public charge, then the government can sue the sponsor for reimbursement. This was required until the giant wave of immigration in the 1880’s. We should demand it now more than ever when immigrants are net burden on public finance. The effect of such a law would be to dramatically reduce the supply of low- skilled immigrants, exactly what we need. Those with substantial skills and good job prospects will be able to obtain sponsors because the likelihood of them needing entitlements is so low.
4. Immigrants Cannot Go Home. Immigration is supposed to benefit the U.S. as well as the immigrant. This happens when immigrants assimilate culturally and become Americans. We do not really benefit from a multilingual and multicultural society. The best way to change the nature of immigration is to prevent lawful permanent resident aliens, those that are one step from citizenship, from returning to their home countries more than once a year for a short period. Immigrants are required by law to abjure their loyalties to their native lands. They can’t do this if they return for long periods to reconnect with families and run businesses there. That foot in both countries mentality is incompatible with the notion of being a naturalized American citizen. If people have a habit of spending substantial time abroad while being LPR’s, they should be disqualified from obtaining citizenship. Once they become citizens, we have no control over their travel or language. But we can do a lot more while they’re in line.
I haven’t heard any member of Congress propose these immigration “reforms.” If I do I’ll write about them.