After listening to Trump’s speech on immigration on Monday night and the Democrats’ response to it, I got to wondering what a humane and effective immigration policy might be. Many people seem to think immigration can’t be fixed. I believe it can.
Here are my thoughts, in the form of a convenient, ten point program:
1. The United States currently caps refugees from Central America at 1,500 annually. Increase this number substantially to more accurately reflect the number of refugees seeking admission at the border each year. This number may be adjusted periodically. (Note: Since Reagan, this number is determined by the President, not Congress or any agency involved in immigration.)
2. With regard to economic immigrants (people looking to move to America to work because their home countries are poor), increase the number of immigrants accepted annually to align with jobs available to new immigrants. Work with employers who typically hire undocumented workers to hire legal immigrants for those jobs and pay them a fair minimum wage.
3. Change the focus of immigration courts and judges from “deny as many as possible” to “admit as many as possible of those who have legitimate claims.”
4. End “extreme vetting” unless there is probably cause with the goal of reducing processing and wait time for people who likely pose no risk.
5. Establish immigration centers across the country (wherever there are federal facilities, perhaps) with the goal of mainstreaming new arrivals quickly and helping to get them set up with housing, services, and jobs.
6. Reduce friction with local people (i.e., Americans) by distributing immigrants as much as possible around the country, thus reducing impact on any one area.
7. Require immigrants to enroll in English language and citizenship classes as soon as they are settled.
8. Work with countries in troubled regions in good faith to stabilize areas producing the most refugees (economic or otherwise). This may include changing U.S. policy in the region and actual cash and in-kind investment.
9. Begin amnesty hearings for the roughly 12.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country with the goal of approving as many as possible. Immigrants gaining amnesty must enroll in citizenship classes or apply for citizenship immediately.
10. Abolish ICE. Their name (and reported actions) make them sound like a bunch of storm troopers. Create a new enforcement agency with a less horrible name and change its mission and practices to reflect goals of new immigration laws and policies. To protect American workers from unfair competition, immigration enforcement should focus on employers who hire illegal immigrants in contradiction of the law, rather than on illegal immigrants themselves.
Will any of this happen? I doubt it, but I think it would be a very good idea if America would at least acknowledge that our broken immigration system is fixable. The only reason it seems impossible to remedy is because just thinking about it causes most people’s heads to explode. Yes, it’s complicated, but if we were willing to take into account the best interests of American citizens and new immigrants alike, we could enact a system that is truly fair to all.