In last week’s column, I began to show how America’s founders dealt responsibly and forcefully with immigration law. I concluded by outlining key criteria for citizenship from the Naturalization Act of 1795, which remain part of American law.
(1) Five years of (lawful) residence within the United States; (2) a “good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States”; (3) the taking of a formal oath to support the Constitution and to renounce any foreign allegiance; and (4) the renunciation of any hereditary titles.
In order for us to regain control of the chaotic mess and divisions posed by illegals and press on to achieve the success our forefathers envisioned, I believe we must apply those four criteria to our naturalization process in a more practical way.
Here are my streamlined recommendations to attain those goals.
First, our next president and Congress must stop the intensive flow of illegal immigration on our southern border by erecting a wall and bolstering its security by whatever means necessary. Nothing can replace it. Where ports are also a problem, they too must be better secured. Until we stop the porous illegal pathways, we fight in vain for a real immigration solution.
Second, they must refocus and redirect the streams of legal immigration. To illustrate, in order for the sheer force of Niagara Falls to be harnessed into usable energy, it must be intentionally funneled through proper and restrictive channels. I believe the same must be done with immigration or ultimately we will hand our sovereignty over to other nations on a populous platter.
Put in another way, no farmer irrigates his land by merely opening the floodgates of water. Rather, water flow is restricted and guided for optimum productivity. That is how our forefathers used to handle immigration, before our present age of tolerance in which we fear saying “no” to any particular people or country.
Our next president and Congress need to re-evaluate and change our virtual open-door policy toward worldwide immigration into the U.S. They need to be intentional and selective but fair in the flow of future immigration. They need to turn off the spigots in certain areas and turn them on in others. We need to treat all people without prejudice, but we need not fear restricting temporary flows of certain peoples. We need to better manage the ebbs and flows (temporary openings, closings and restrictions) of immigration streams into our country.
And a proper management and regulation of those immigrant tides absolutely begins with immediately turning off the illegal flows at our borders. We can’t deal with the flood in the orchards until we cap the floodwaters coming into them. And that means giving our Border Patrol the total resources they need to get their job done, and even utilizing military personnel in particular hot crossing spots. I’ll say it again: Only when we secure our borders can we properly deal with the illegals inside the borders; otherwise, the cat-and-mouse game will continue and grow.
Our forefathers increased and decreased the influx of peoples because America was building a melting pot and because certain ethnicities often brought with them certain securities and degrees of productivity.
Today, with America having achieved that great diversity, it’s time to limit citizenship or at least re-elevate its status, like acquiring admission into an Ivy League school. Of course, we shouldn’t regulate the flows of immigration based solely upon ethnicity. Rather, we should regulate them based upon societal needs for balance, stability and growth. Productivity not ethnic profiling should lead the way.
James Madison spoke for most founders as he gave the purpose for immigration: “Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community, are not the people we are in want of.”
Such intentionality today in immigration influx could even serve as an additional aid to lift us from our economic stagnation. For example, if we want to grow particular areas of commerce or infrastructure, then let’s do what academic higher institutions do: recruit the people who possess expertise in those areas.
Moreover, let’s actively seek those who would strengthen the weaknesses in our culture, until that particular, economic and societal dry ground for which they came has been satiated or saturated. Then, we move on to the next “dry ground” or need for immigrant influx. That could work for economic or geographic bolstering, or both.
I agree with Newt Gingrich in his insightful book, “To Save America,” and also in his online list of 10 or so excellent suggestions of curbing the flows of illegal immigration, like stopping their government aid and closing safe harbors in sanctuary cities.
However, I respectfully disagree with Newt on this one point: “Workers who came here illegally but have a good work relationship and community ties (including family), should have first opportunity to get the new temporary worker visas, but instead of paying penalties, they should be required to go home and get the visa at home.”
We can argue ad nauseam over the need for over 11 million illegals to go home, but we all know at this point that will never happen, at least not with all 11 million. The technicalities and costs of that many illegals (and their families) to be tracked down, rounded up and deported is so staggering and impractical that its mere mention borders on absurd.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a study released in March by the American Action Forum, a free-market think tank led by economist Doug Holtz-Eakin. It detailed the process of evicting 11 million illegal immigrants, which included the following:
- The costs would be at least $400 billion in new federal spending and reduce U.S. GDP by about $1 trillion, not to mention the deficiencies that would be created in other areas not getting that attention or financial help;
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can now remove at most 400,000 illegal immigrants a year, most of whom are turned over to the feds by local police after, say, a traffic stop. It is estimated to get 11 million in two years would take 90,000 federal agents (up from the present 4,000);
- At present, the U.S. has about 250 detention facilities with 34,000 beds, and only 58 immigration courts, and they are all maxed out. The average detention time is 28.7 days.
Again, if all 11 million were rounded up in two years, it would take some 348,831 beds, as well as more than 1,300 courts and about 30,000 more federal attorneys. Anyone want a new detention facility built in their neighborhood or town?
- After all that, there are the deportation costs, and consider only half of the 11 million originate from Mexico. To deport all of them, it would take 84 buses and 47 chartered flights deployed every day for two years.
- Most difficult of all, about eight million illegal immigrants are employed in some way. The report estimates their departure would shrink (or open up, depending upon how you look at it) the U.S. labor force by 6.4 percent. Anyway you go, that’s a lot of suddenly unfilled jobs. The report estimates that GDP would shrink by 5.7 percent, not far from the 6.3 percent decline from the 2008 recession, granted various unfilled employment would have varying effects upon the economy.
I’m not presenting the above facts to say it can’t be done, but that there are far-reaching implications to our own life and economy in doing it, let alone the additional negatives created by trying to accomplish all the above bullets without additional repercussions.
We must provide a better and more practical solution that doesn’t cost our country billions in deportation costs and economic losses. I believe our founders provided us with a better process to graft many in as citizens and not lose the economic flow some provide for our country. Let me explain, and I’m not talking about some blanketed amnesty.
First of all, there is no question that the illegals who fill our prisons and have a history of additional crimes must go. Far less are the costs for boards to be created who can clearly see and review the illegals already detained and causing further degradation to our country. They must go, and the costs incurred to deport them are warranted.
According to FY 2014 USSC data, while illegal immigrants account for about 3.5 percent of the U.S population, they represented 36.7 percent of federal sentences, including 16.8 percent of drug trafficking cases, 20.0 percent of kidnapping/hostage taking, 74.1 percent of drug possession, 12.3 percent of money laundering, and 12.0 percent of murder convictions.
Second, entitlements and other benefits being given by the government to aid any illegals – like the 14 percent receiving welfare – must immediately stop. Those who are not working are unproductive and only siphoning from the U.S. system and society must go.
Third, it is the illegals who are productive, contributing employed members in our society, for whom I would create a pathway to citizenship that doesn’t involve additional massive costs to our communities, states or country. Again, my primary concern is the U.S. and its health and stability.
In 1790, our Founders required immigrants to live in the United States for two years before they could become citizens, to prove their productivity and contributions (including moral influences) in society. The Naturalization Act of 1795 extended the residency requirement for citizenship from two years to five years. (Federalists passed the Naturalization Act of 1798, which extended the residency requirement from five to 14 years. It specifically targeted Irish and French immigrants.) I believe a combination of our Founders’ 1790 and 1795 naturalization recommendations would work to solve our productive illegal alien problem and serve as a proper path and protocol for citizenship.
As I mentioned earlier, we can’t properly deal with the illegals within our borders until we’ve stopped the flow at our borders. Then, and only then, can we turn our attention to the millions already residing in our country. What I then propose for them is not amnesty in any package, but a one-time solution based upon the 1790-1795 immigration law that would separate the wheat from the chaff, straining out potentially productive and law-abiding citizens who will pay their fair share of taxes as citizens.
I would give illegal immigrants already here a three-month grace period to apply for a temporary worker’s visa. If they failed to apply within that time frame, they would be considered fugitives, and they would be found and deported. Once they applied and qualified for a temporary worker’s visa, these immigrants would be placed on a two-year probationary period (the original 1790 requirement of residency). At the completion of that time, and if they remained in good standing, they would be issued a permanent worker’s visa. And, after an additional three years (completing the five-year residency requirement from the Naturalization Act of 1795), they would qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship.
During their two-year probationary period, it would be their responsibility to check in to assigned governing officials and prove their productivity and progress as a part of the American landscape. Criteria would, of course, be established by Congress (as the Constitution requires) but enforced by local probationary personnel from the departments of naturalization, in a similar way that probation officers monitor people on probation. If immigrants don’t “check in,” and do not have a good reason for not doing so, they will be deported. If they are law-breakers, they will be deported. If they don’t demonstrate a good moral standing and aren’t productive members of their community, they will be deported.
The words of James Madison bear repeating and should be posted in all naturalization offices across this land: “Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community, are not the people we are in want of.”
This is how America was built, and it is how it can be rebuilt again today – if we secure our borders, better regulate the influx of immigrants to meet and build up societal needs, and offer a responsible path to citizenship for immigrants who are already working here and want to become productive American citizens.