By Kevin Boyd – LibertyChat.com Contributor –
It is no secret that the country has a problem with illegal immigration as tens of thousands of people who have flooded the southern border from Central America over the past few months. These people, like millions before them, are fleeing terrible conditions in their homelands and in search of a better life in the United States. Most of these people are here to genuinely work for their portion of the American dream, like most of our ancestors before us. While as conservatives we should demand a strong, secure border; we must handle immigration in both a fair and compassionate manner towards those who came to the U.S. legally and even towards those who came here illegally.
The problem is that truly open borders are not a viable option for national security reasons and for public health reasons and I do not advocate for them. The first duty of a nation state is to secure the borders from external threats and in this age of international crime and terrorism; that includes potential gang members and terrorists; and it is not racist to demand the government do its job on this. The United States has a unique immigration position in that it is the only First World nation that shares a border with a Third World nation. With that in mind, there has to be a way to set up border crossings and checkpoints to screen for communicable diseases such as swine flu and tuberculosis that are more rampant in less developed nations.
While all conservatives agree on increased border security, that alone will not stop illegal immigration. Our legal immigration system is a mess. One of my colleagues at IJ Review, Katrina Jorgensen, married a Norwegian husband and has been forced to move to Norway because her husband has been having a hard time to get a visa to enter the United States. The reason why she ultimately made the decision to leave the U.S. and move to Norway until her husband Kai could immigrate to the U.S. was that when she was in the hospital late in 2013, the Department of Homeland Security denied Kai a visa so he could be with her because there is no grounds in U.S. immigration law to allow those who are applying to immigrate to the U.S. to enter on compassionate grounds. Keep in mind that Norway is a U.S. ally and a member of NATO. The Jorgensens are not the only ones who are having to choose between country and family because of America’s broken legal immigration system.
The Daily Signal, featured an op-ed recently from Brandon Macknofsky, a legal immigrant from Canada who is living in Florida, who is having a problem getting into medical school due to his immigration status. Although he has lived in the U.S. since age 6, he is a “non-resident alien” which means he had to pay out of state tuition rates for undergrad school (although if he was an illegal immigrant, he would qualify for in state tuition) and cannot enter medical school because of his status. His father is finally being sponsored for a green card and he can “grandfather” his mother and his sister, however since he turned 21, he cannot be grandfathered in. The legal immigration system is failing people like Brandon Macknofsky who wants to become a doctor and contribute to our country. Macknofsky needs the playing field leveled because ironically, we make it easier to become an illegal immigrant than to play by the rules and enter the country legally.
Other legal immigrants have had to wait years and decades in some cases to get their green cards. While others have had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to hire immigration attorneys to navigate the cumbersome process. Also, in order work temporarily in the United States, applicants must go through their own cumbersome process and have to be sponsored by an employer. Since work visas are job specific if a visa holder loses their job, they’re not allowed to remain in the country. With an immigration system like this, why wouldn’t you enter the U.S. illegally or overstay a tourist or student visa then go through this?
One of the problems is that the number of overall permanent immigrants is capped at 675,000 per year and that’s divided still further under various categories including employment category, family reunification, and country of origin. There are other annual caps for temporary workers such as a cap of 85,000 for H1Bs (which are skilled workers), a cap of 66,000 for H2Bs (non-skilled non agricultural workers), but no cap on H2As (non-skilled agricultural workers) however the application and compliance process is extremely complex. Finally, the U.S. imposes a refugee cap of 70,000 per year which is divided by region.
While I would prefer to do away with immigration quotas completely, that’s a probably a bridge too far for most Americans of all political persuasions. We should do however is increase immigration quotas, for both permanent residents and temporary guest workers, and have a more streamlined process to eliminate waiting lists and the decades-long processing times. We should eliminate the country of origin limits, gimmicks like the diversity visa lottery, and even the employer category limits in exchange for an overall total quota of green cards. We should also eliminate employer sponsorship for work visas and for green cards in order to increase flexibility for those for those who receive them and to reduce the potential for exploitation and abuse. We also should not count anyone trying to upgrade a temporary residence visa into a green card against the overall quota count.
Combining a legal immigration system that both meets the needs of the American economy and tougher border security, both at the border and stricter visa enforcement, will discourage and reduce illegal immigration. As it becomes easier to immigrate legally, there is less reason to take the dangerous journey across the Rio Grande or to overstay a tourist or student visa. We can also focus finite security resources on those who are trying to enter the United States to do the country harm.
Kevin Boyd is a staff writer at Independent Journal Review and a self-described “conservatarian” writer. Follow him on Twitter @kevinboyd1984