Wanted: an immigration policy

Donald Trump’s immigration policy is to discourage crossings of the southern border by means of deliberate cruelty.

But it is not enough for liberals and progressives to protest President Trump.  They need to come up with a policy of their own.  This they have not done.  Until they do, the present situation will continue, which will be to Trump’s political advantage.

The policy of cruelty did not originate with Trump.  Under the Clinton administration, the U.S. government built walls at key border crossings, so that unauthorized immigrants would be forced into the desert and risk death by thirst.  Under the Obama administration, conditions were terrible in detention centers.

The Trump administration doubled down on all these policies.  And a cynic could make the argument (although I don’t) that control by cruelty is working.  It probably has a deterrent effect, while sufficient unauthorized immigrants make their way into the U.S. to supply employers’ need for low-paid labor.

But what is the alternative?  Is it open borders—no controls on immigration at all?  I know of nobody who has made that argument.  I know of no government that has such a policy.

Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren and others have proposed repealing a 1929 law that makes it a crime to cross into the United States without authorization.  That wouldn’t be the same as open borders.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could still turn you back.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and others propose abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is responsible for enforcing immigration laws in the interior of the United States.

This would not necessarily affect the sister Customs and Border Protection agency, which is responsible for controlling entry into the United States.  But AOC and Omar also oppose any additional funding for detention centers or deportations.  Some immigrant rights groups oppose all funding for detention centers or deportations.

In practice, all this means no limit on immigration at all—open borders in all but same.  The alternative to control by cruelty is no control at all.

AOC, Omar and others also call for a “Marshall Plan” to promote economic development in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three main countries that asylum-seekers are fleeing.  But the original Marshall Plan was to rebuild democratic nations of western Europe after World War Two, not dictatorship like these three countries.

There is no point in aiding oppressive governments that are creating the problem in the first place.  Far better to aid the democratic governments of Costa Rica, Belize and Panama and the semi-democratic government of Nicaragua, and cut off support for the dictatorships.

As I’ve written before, I don’t have a good overall answer to the immigration question.  I don’t think the number of immigrants should be unlimited and I don’t think it should be zero.  I do have some suggestions to alleviate the current situation.

  • Hire more immigration judges and set up a process whereby claims of the right of asylum can be heard within days rather than months.  
  • Hire social workers and child care workers to see that children of immigrant families get good child care.
  • Build more detention facilities if necessary to relieve overcrowding.
  • Expedite processing of applicants of immigrants needed to perform necessary work, such as crop harvests.
  • Allow unauthorized, but otherwise law-abiding, immigrants to apply for citizenship.
  • Eliminate the caps on immigration from any one country.  It’s absurd that India and Nepal have the same limit.
  • Keep a limit on overall immigration by restricting family unification immigrants to minor children age 18 or younger and elderly parents age 62 or older.  No brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins.
  • Keep a limit on overall immigration by eliminating the diversity lottery.  The USA is as diverse as it needs to be.

Donald Trump won the Presidency in part by raising two issues that the Clinton Democrats and Bush Republicans didn’t want to deal with—foreign trade and immigration.  While it can’t be said that he has resolved these issues, he has forced the country to deal with them, like it or not.  Just being against Trump is not enough.


How We Ended Up With Kids in Cages by Peter Van Buren for The American Conservative.

Canada’s Immigration Policy Isn’t All That Welcoming by Tony Keller for The Atlantic.

Australia’s immigration policies should be a warning to the U.S. by Rachel Withers for Slate.

Key facts about U.S. immigration policies and proposed changes by Jens Michael Krogstad and Ana Gonzales-Barbera for Pew Research Center.

Five facts about illegal immigration in the U.S. by Jens Michael Krogstad, Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn for Pew Research Center.

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2 Responses to “Wanted: an immigration policy”

  1. whungerford Says:

    I would admit all bona fide asylum seekers and do what we can to reduce the pressure for flight in their countries of origin.


  2. Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

    Personally, I’d permit anyone who wants to enter the country to do so as long as they become fully documented and stay clean legally. Free preventative and life-saving medicine. The alphabet soup that is our immigration system would be responsible for getting that documentation done and helping new arrivals, not for kicking people about. It will never happen.

    There can be no solution until Mexico gets closer to the US in term of economic development. Do that and the problem vanishes on its own. Everything else is a band-aid.


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