Settling the status of America's millions of “undocumented” residents is long overdue. Recently, the president and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had an acrimonious telephone exchange about this issue. Just a week or so earlier, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stirred a hornets nest – at least among the Republican electoral base – when he suggested that illegal immigrants are just people trying to give their families a better life.
Clearly, it is time to have a realistic and constructive dialogue on the subject.
Most illegal immigrants will not be leaving the country. So, we have only two options in dealing with these 11 million American residents. We can keep them indefinitely in their current marginal status, with all the hardship this imposes on them and their communities, or acknowledge their ongoing presence among us and legalize it. Both they and the country will be much better off if we pursue the latter course.
Before indicating why, however, let me acknowledge the strong views on the other side that Cantor would have to placate: that unauthorized U.S. residency is a clear-cut instance of lawbreaking and should not be rewarded through “amnesty” – whatever form it might take – and that retroactively condoning it makes a mockery of our immigration laws and insults all those who have been waiting patiently to enter the country legally.
At the same time, the uncomfortable truth is that our illegal immigrants are not the only lawbreakers. We would never have had so many of them if it were not for the thousands of employers who broke the law by hiring them and were never penalized because authorities – quite intentionally – turned a blind eye to the issue until it became too politically visible to ignore.
Perversely, employers have escaped not only legal penalties for their behavior but any criticism from those most exercised about illegal immigration.
Looking back, in other words, there is plenty of blame to go around; now we need to look ahead and tackle the problem constructively. For starters, we should stop demonizing the entire illegal immigrant population – Jeb Bush's main point. For many American industries – and most American consumers – they are an economic boon and, contrary to the popular canards, they aren't mooching off the public trough (their payroll and other taxes far exceed the cost of the government services or payments they receive), disproportionately committing crimes, or taking jobs away from American workers.
Beyond that, we need to appreciate their family circumstances. The current cohort of illegal households includes several million essentially blameless immigrant children and another 5 million who are American-born – meaning fully legal – living with at least one illegal parent. Deporting their parents would orphan these millions of American children or – perhaps worse – wrench them out of the only national home they have ever known and cast them into poverty in a foreign land.
So far, this is only an argument against deportation. Here is the case for legalization. Aside from any “soft” appeals to humanitarian values or qualms about “second class” citizenship, the overriding practical rationale is that doing so will generate a human capital bonanza.
As numerous studies have documented, legalization will give millions of young illegal immigrants – and their American-born siblings – the motivation and means to continue their education; additionally it will encourage millions of their parents to further their own educations and training. For the immigrants, this means higher incomes and less dependency; for the country a quantum increase in economic productivity.
Of course, as Gov. Bush emphasized, any legislation to normalize the status of today's illegal immigrants must be matched by stringent measures to stem future illegal entry.
This is not as difficult as it is often made out to be, and does not require heroic structural or manpower deployments at the U.S.- Mexico border. Employer verification and computer data-matching can do the trick – if followed up with severe penalties imposed on employer violators and deportation of foreign “visitors” who overstay their visas.
Congress is considering legislation along these lines, designed to allow most current illegal immigrants to gain legal status while making it virtually impossible for new ones to enter or remain in the country. Congress struck a similar compromise in 1986, with passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which combined amnesty for the 3 million illegal immigrants then in the U.S. with border control measures – including employer sanctions. But then the country completely failed to enforce the second half of the package. Given that history, no legislation granting legalization can pass today without convincing assurance this won't happen again.
If our political leaders can rise above the rancor on both sides of the illegal immigration issue and craft a tough and realistic “grand bargain” on these terms, they would be unleashing an economic and social windfall not only for the affected immigrants but for all of American society.
Original Source: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/illegal-611785-immigrants-american.html