We won’t see it in any headline, but immigration is dead.
You can’t have immigration without immigrants, and we no longer have immigrants, we have only migrants. Everyone is a migrant. We all migrate at some time, from town to town, state to state, region to region and country to country. It’s all the same. Really, when you think about it, we’re all just citizens of the world, and borders are artificial and illusory.
Thus, since immigration is dead, it may be a waste of time to have another national debate over “immigration reform.” Congress has killed immigration through indifference, and Obama has done a victory dance on its grave.
If you think immigration is not yet dead, consider the total insignificance of immigration law. Under Obama, who rules by executive fiat, immigration law is now without meaning. And borders? They are irrelevant. Every international airport is legally and functionally part of our border, and more people arrive from foreign countries at airports than at ports of entry on our land borders. Any foreign national who can get a tourist visa, student visa, business travel visa or refugee visa can cross our border legally and take up residence – and never be asked to leave.
The reality is that any foreign national who has a desire to live and work in the United States has more than a dozen legal vehicles to reach that goal. Millions are utilizing these procedures to take up residency and gain eventual U.S. citizenship – all without ever filling out an application as an immigrant.
Yes, each year the United States still officially welcomes about 1.1 million individuals officially designated as “immigrants.” We still give those people a document called an immigrant visa, commonly called a “green card” even though it is not green. But an increasing percentage of individuals who take the oath of citizenship each year did not follow that route.
That official procedure for legal immigration still exists but masks a larger reality: Immigration is now passé, superseded in importance and overshadowed in numbers by non-immigrant arrivals. A large percentage of people who arrive in our country by other means will nevertheless end up as permanent residents and will eventually become eligible for citizenship – either through a general amnesty for unlawful arrivals or some expansion of the “change of status” laws.
A few years ago, a government study estimated that 40 percent of the illegal aliens living in the U.S. arrived by way of a legal visa – a tourist visa, business traveler, foreign student, etc. – and then ignored the visa departure date. No one knows the real number of “visa overstays,” but considering that we have over 100,000,000 foreign visitors each year, that number may be staggering.
In the 1996 immigration reform legislation, Congress mandated that the government develop a computerized system for monitoring all arrivals and departures, a system called “US-VISIT.” Sixteen years later, we know who arrives, but the exit part? Not so much. If you overstay your tourist visa, the odds on anyone from the Department of Homeland Security ever locating you and asking you to leave are very small.
We put a man on the moon in eight short years, and our spy satellites can monitor terrorists around the globe, but tracking foreign visitors within our own borders is supposedly beyond the government’s capability. Certainly it is outside their sphere of urgent concern.
Congress may soon put the final nail in the coffin of traditional immigration by granting legal status and work authorization to over 15 million “undocumented” non-immigrants whose only affection for the United States comes from employment in the underground job market.
Not long ago, the liberal research organization Pew Hispanic Center conducted a survey of “newly arrived undocumented immigrants,” which is their politically correct terminology for illegal aliens. The survey revealed that over 60 percent of newly arrived illegal aliens planned to stay here only one or two years, save as much money as possible and then return home. According to this authoritative survey, upon their arrival illegal aliens do not possess that most basic characteristic of any “immigrant,” the desire and intent to become a permanent part of our society.
Now we know that the joke was on us. That desire that defines the real immigrant, the willingness to leave behind the country of your birth and become a full member of the adopted nation, is no longer important, or at least no longer essential.
The lesson that current law and practice teaches is that any migrant can become an American by sheer physical presence and avoidance of deportation. No matter how you arrived here, legally or not, if you manage to stay long enough, you will eventually be granted an amnesty. And the best part? You never have to abandon your loyalty to your country of birth.
Maybe we ought not to put too much energy into the “immigration debate.” Obama will enforce the parts of the law he likes and disregard the rest. So, why get too excited over the details of any new immigration plan? It’s so yesterday, dude.