Why does the U.S. have immigration laws?

Why does the U.S. have immigration laws?  I ask not over exasperation that a Senate gang-of-eight is once again considering a blanket amnesty for people who have been living in the U.S. illegally as part of comprehensive immigration reform, but from a purely practical perspective.  It stands to reason our immigration laws are there as guidelines to enforce our immigration policy.  So at some level we must have an immigration policy, right?

Think of it in the context of admission to an elite university.  Every year there are tens of thousands of high school graduates who would benefit greatly from being accepted to Harvard or Yale or M.I.T..  Yet those schools don’t just let anyone who manages to wander onto their campuses attend classes and, after hanging around campus long enough, deem the folks who self-admitted themselves worthy of a diploma.  Nay, those institutions have a rigorous screening process through which they identify a select few students who meet their standards for admission.

If those elite institutions were bound by the same principles as our immigration policy then anyone who took it upon themselves to enter onto the campus would be tolerated, sanctuary dormitories established, and their uninvited presence welcomed until such future time when a diploma is bestowed upon them for their plucky indifference to the rules.

So as politicians discuss immigration reform we get plenty of anecdotes about kids whose parents came here illegally and illegal immigrants who’ve “played by the rules” while working in the U.S. their whole lives.  We get bromides about jobs Americans won’t do and reminders that America is a land of immigrants.  What I’ve yet to hear, though, is a discussion on what our immigration policy is supposed to accomplish.  Is it too much to expect our elected officials to articulate the specific goals are we trying to achieve through our immigration policy and laws?

For example, how many people should be permitted to immigrate to the U.S. each year?  Has anyone ever asked or answered that question?  Should we welcome one million new immigrants each year?  Three million?  Five million?  It seems to me this should be the very first thing defined as part of our immigration policy but as far as I know no one has ever said, “Our goal is to allow x-number of people to immigrate to the United States each year.”  Instead Congress haggles over retroactively granting permanent residence to those who are currently living here illegally.

I know there are limitations on certain types of visas like H1-B foreign workers in technical fields but just how many immigrants should to be allowed into the country each year?  It’s interesting that foreign students who come to the US legally are watched very closely, very limited in the time and type of work they’re permitted after graduation and then required to leave after a very limited number of years.  Once their schooling and practical training is complete these highly educated, highly skilled, highly motivated, tax-paying, law-abiding foreigners are expelled…after ten or so years of living lawfully in the U.S.

Conversely, the low-skilled people who come here illegally get the red carpet treatment from the people pushing a path to citizenship under comprehensive immigration reform.  Does it make any sense at all to ensure well-educated, law-abiding foreigners are forced to leave while courting scofflaws who lack the education and skills required in the “high-tech economy” Obama’s always talking about?

It appears the number of immigrants the U.S. permits each year is to be defined by how many foreigners choose to ignore immigration law and live here illegally.  When a politician says any immigration reform must include a path to citizenship for all illegals who are currently living in America they are in effect granting foreign nationals the authority to determine how many people are permitted to enter the U.S.

Realistically, if we open our borders and everyone on Earth who wished to live in America were permitted to with no delay or regulation our population would double, maybe triple, very quickly.  That might be a very good thing, then again it might not.  I do believe the U.S. should welcome people who want to come here and build a better life.  But I also believe we must manage the flow of immigrants to ensure they can be properly assimilated to American culture.

What is an appropriate number of immigrants to allow into the U.S. each year?  That should be the very first question answered when immigration policy is discussed.

Once we’ve set a goal for total number of immigrants, what qualifications should we expect from people who wish to immigrate to the U.S.?  It seems as though the answer to that question is, “Be born somewhere you aren’t required to pass through customs to physically enter the U.S.”  Geographical proximity is a very poor qualifier for selecting who is permitted to enter the U.S. and be granted permanent resident status.

Granted, a lot of industries have benefited from the influx of cheap, unskilled labor from Latin America.  Those benefits have surely trickled up to many other Americans in the form of lower prices.  But it has also effectively frozen many unskilled native born citizens out of the labor market and created a perception there are some jobs Americans won’t do.

Shouldn’t we define which types of people we allow to live in the U.S. be codified through our immigration policy?  What should potential immigrants have to offer the U.S.?  What level of education?  What professional skills?

Looking beyond factors strictly related to the types of jobs they can fill, shouldn’t we consider their backgrounds?  Are they law-abiding?  How strongly do they believe in American values?  Will they assimilate to our culture?

For whatever reason – fear of being branded a racist, perhaps – establishing a set of qualifications for current and future immigrants isn’t discussed.  Since immigration will have a significant impact on how America looks in the future, shouldn’t we take steps to permit only the best and brightest people around the world to immigrate?  If we’re truly committed to diversity shouldn’t our immigration policy ensure people from many different cultures enter the country?

As it stands now, 90+% of the people being considered for any proposed path to citizenship will have come from Latin America.  Latin America has ~10% of the world’s population.  Why should our immigration policy discriminate against people from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East?  There a plenty of desperately poor folks around the world who would welcome an opportunity to chase the American dream.  Why should immigration reform only reward those who don’t have to board an airplane or boat to reach the U.S.?

Finally, why does immigration reform have to be comprehensive?  Call me crazy, but whenever Congress undertakes comprehensive “reform” of any complex matter I feel a lot like a dog watching its owner stuff a bitter pill into a piece of cheese.  There’s no way to craft a practical set of immigration laws in one all-encompassing bill.  Lord knows Washington wants to shove something down our throats and move on to the next manufactured crisis but that doesn’t mean we should let them.

Every day we learn about a new unintended consequence of the 2,000+ page Obamacare bill.  What are the odds any comprehensive immigration reform passed and signed into law wouldn’t be riddled with the same?  Would anyone actually be permitted to read and find out what’s in it before it was brought to a vote?

If immigration reform is the elephant in the room Congress must remember that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Let’s talk about how to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books before we create a new set of books.  Then let’s discuss how many people we wish to immigrate each year.  Then let’s talk about the qualifications and characteristics we can use to define which people are allowed to fill that annual quota.

America is an elite institution and we need to be selective when deciding who to admit.  Until Congress can offer a concise explanation of why we have immigration laws, what they’re intended to accomplish, and how they’re to be enforced Americans need to put the kibosh on comprehensive immigration reform.

Retirement? Don’t count on it.
VIDEO: The False Claim that Women Only Earn 77 Cents To a Man's Dollar
  • Commander_Chico

    The USA should give exams to potential immigrants and recruit for ability and skills, rather than holding a lottery. Take the best.

    The USA should also reward for service – people who work for the USA overseas, like interpreters, should be given priority over dubious refugee claims of people who can’t read their own language. Just like we should only give foreign aid to countries who do what we tell them to do and work hard to show progress.

    Many places in the USA got burdened with helpless and hopeless Cambodians, Somalis and old Russians, none of whom were ever going to earn a nickel and immediately went on the wellie and SSDI.

    We should have a foreign legion leading to citizenship, too. There is already a precedent for this – a small number of Filipinos are, or used to be, allowed to join the U.S. Navy every year. This legion would also be useful for dangerous operations, as France uses them.

    • jim_m

      The USA should give exams to potential immigrants and recruit for
      ability and skills, rather than holding a lottery. Take the best.

      What an idiotic idea. And what language are these test going to be administered in? And how do you suppose that we will get a test that people are happy with when the left is already opposing aptitude testing for police and fire department promotions, alleging that these tests are racially biased?

      The only reason the left would promote having a test is so they could enrich their trial lawyer friends.

      • Commander_Chico

        OK, no test. You can let retards and illiterates keep coming into the USA instead of engineers and scientists.

        How about having the test in English?

        • jim_m

          I’m just telling you that your lefty fellow travelers will be totally against this idea.

          I agree that immigration needs a major overhaul and that letting in more skilled workers is important and that our current policy prevents that in many instances.

  • herddog505

    As I see it, there are two problems with “immigration”:

    1. Security – we are in the unfortunate position of having to try to make sure that the person trying to get in is NOT coming in to commit murder and mayhem;

    2. Welfare (which includes public schools with all their Free Lunches and Free Breakfasts and free this and free that) – we are encouraging the immigration of deadbeats and costing ourselves a mint.

    Baron von OttomaticWhy does the U.S. have immigration laws?

    Ya silly! It’s for the same reason that we’ve got income tax, environmental regulations, and just about every other law on the books: so that politicians can exercise power over us and play favorites.

    Baron von OttomaticI do believe the U.S. should welcome people who want to come here and build a better life. But I also believe we must manage the flow of immigrants to ensure they can be properly assimilated to American culture.

    Agreed. We used to do this sort of thing. Now, it’s utterly chaotic: play by the rules and wait for years; just show up and… well, maybe we’ll try to send you back, and maybe not. Meantime, here’s a check. But be careful about trying to work, because we MIGHT raid your company and… um… well, it’s probably better not to work at all. Just keep your head down, yeah?

    I have a friend who was born in Canada. He married an American woman and settled down to life here as a chemist. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to be a citizen. NINE YEARS and thousands of dollars later, he finally got it. He should have saved his time and money.

    Baron von OttomaticFinally, why does immigration reform have to be comprehensive?

    More with the silly questions! Because members of Congress are at once lazy (“comprehensive” means they’ve only got to vote once and can then get back to the real business of getting reelected) and showboats (this isn’t just “reform”: it’s “COMPREHENSIVE reform”, which is, like, TOTALLY better than just “reform”).

  • Pingback: Immigration Laws – Made To Be Broken | YouViewed/Editorial()

  • Hank_M

    Excellent article Baron.

    As to why we have immigration laws? For no other reason than selective enforcement when it suits the purposes of those in charge. Border enforcement? No. Deport a german family for home schooling their children, YES!

    Face it, the dems look at illegal immigrants as nothing more than future votes.
    And the primary architect for this debacle is the hopefully gone-to-hell Ted Kennedy.

    As for “comprehensive” reform…..it sounds good. Like Obama’s other tic, “balanced approach”.

    As I mentioned, your article is excellent and asks great questions. I wish our politicians were asking and debating the same. It’ll never happen though.
    It’s all nothing but a cynical political ploy, wrapped up in supposedly good intentions where non-pc views (anything not liberal) are dismissed as bigoted and racist.
    And this is all very deliberate.

  • immigration attorney4less

    immigration laws may be correct as per the security threat but is it right to send back who has no criminal record or who want to be with her or his family