Trump’s rhetoric on immigration divides us due to its racist framing. If Trump were sincere about solutions and not just stoking his base, he would instead fashion a comprehensive, centrist, practical immigration policy that could obtain broad support through benefits such as keeping our population and economy young, enhancing the talent in our work force, and enriching our communities.
What is a centrist, rational, immigration policy? It is a skills-based immigration policy, based on letting in a mix of those who immediately bring resources and talent to our economy, along with workers who will do tough jobs that Americans just will not do anymore. These lower salaried workers could either be guest workers, or rewarded after so many years of successful work and other skills attainment, such as mastery of English, consistent tax payments, etc., with a path to citizenship. This last point – guest workers versus potential citizens – should be a debate.
Border security is a necessary part of these overall discussions. Similarly, the discussion of border security and other enforcement mechanisms should not occur in isolation from an overall immigration policy. Decisions which are made on border security should effectively integrate with and support the details of the skills-based immigration policy Americans decide to agree upon.
Reducing illegal immigration via border security – fencing or a wall, surveillance tools, worker ids, employer penalties, ICE enforcement – should be achieved through those mix of tools specified and debated by experts from a variety of disciplines. The costs and the financing of the overall program should be made clear.
People with necessary skills, such as technology workers, should be welcomed in under visas, as they are now, with a minimum of friction if their employer supports their work. If they work for so many years, and want to stay, their person and talents should be welcome in the US. Anyone who has worked in a large, corporate IT Department in the US, has seen the critical contribution that generally Indian, but also other Asian technology workers, make to their companies and their communities.
Likewise, agricultural workers are needed to maximize US productivity and should be allowed in as guests, This population is more challenging to monitor, so more attention needs to be paid to how we make sure they do not overstay the work available for them, with the least possible (although it still may be intrusive) government regulation and surveillance.
Democratic Party Falsehoods – False Ethics, False Vision
- Falsehood #1 – A Wall is Unethical. It is not, as ethically, nations have the right to maintain the wealth, fiscal and cultural well-being of their citizens. There are conservative ethics (Trump is not a conservative) which foster the integrity and well-being of the community versus the outside world. This is the vision of the nation as a family; there is nothing wrong with this vision.
- Falsehood #2 – “Give Me Your Huddled Masses” – the US does not have the obligation to support the well-being of the World through immigration. Amnesty can be ethically limited to the most dire cases. Of course, American foreign policy can work to foster prosperity worldwide, and through the market framework we have established over the last 70 years (now being frayed by Trump) and selective aid, we have done that.
The real problem is that Democrats have not put forth a vision of immigration that can be embraced by a majority of Americans. They have pandered to their base, with rhetoric about “who we are”, the obligation to end external suffering, etc.
Trump (Republican) Falsehoods, False Facts, False Vision
- In talking about the current immigration pool, including illegals, Republicans have exaggerated the negative characteristics of these immigrants. The exact facts are subject to debate, but immigrants who are here recently from Mexico and other third-world countries are overwhelmingly here to work, and thus they pay taxes. They do use services, but their purchasing power and taxes are a net benefit to the US. This does not mean they provide maximum benefit to the US, and does not mean they should be allowed to stay. A large population of poorer, less established individuals can change the balance of communities. What to do about current illegals is a legitimate debate, and we may decide to send them back.But calling them “rapists, criminals and gang members” is racist, and does not serve the debate. Yes, we need to get rid of the criminals among them; no one debates this, and Obama pursued this vigorously.Dreamers who have lived here all their lives, need to be given special consideration, and some path to citizenship based on education, work, knowledge of English, payment of taxes and adherence to US law. To keep them in limbo is inhumane.
- Republicans recently have downplayed the incredible contribution of recent immigrants as a critical component of US economic success, balance to an aging population, and needed to re-vitalize communities. Consider:
- 216 of the 500 companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or their children. In technology, this includes Steve Jobs, Google’s founders, and many others. Without this pool, the US would have been far poorer.
- Over 400,000 workers in IT departments or other skilled jobs have H-1B visas. Most of us who work in large companies know how critical these workers are to the well-being of US companies. And personally, we have been enriched by their presence and their strong family values. These are people whom the US should hope will want to stay.
- Mexicans in many cases do tough jobs that they should be lauded for. In Berrien County, MI, they work at tasks such as vineyard maintenance and harvesting, fruit tree maintenance and harvesting, that are critical to the success of farmers, and impossible to fill domestically.
- Some groups of 2nd generation immigrants, such as Asians, out-perform native Americans educationally and occupationally. They are hungry for success.
- Republicans and Trump over-emphasize the “keep-out” aspects of immigration rather than who the US should let in.
Why doesn’t Donald Trump celebrate these workers and 2nd generation citizens? This could be positive fodder for him if he truly were working towards a solution to immigration instead of race-baiting to his base. Likewise, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer should work towards a policy that emphasizes maximizing benefits for the US -its economy and communities – in the near term as well as the long term, with a comprehensive set of carrots and sticks to encourage the optimal mix of skilled and unskilled immigrants while keeping out others.
To conclude, this is not just an economic argument. This is about preserving the US as the most desirable place for immigrants of all types to come to. That means we will be able to celebrate what is a US strength – a strong economy, with strong, diverse communities. Being the shining beacon to the world’ immigrants and utilizing their strengths though a rational immigration policy is something the US should aspire to and take advantage of, from a position of strength, with authority over its borders.