Immigration: On One Hand . . . But, On the Other Hand . . .

Immigration: On One Hand . . .
But, On the Other Hand . . .

© David Burton 2018


     “Immigration has been a touchstone of the U.S. political debate for decades, as policymakers must weigh competing economic, security, and humanitarian concerns. Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform for years, effectively moving some major policy decisions into the executive and judicial branches of government and fueling debate in the halls of state and municipal governments.
     “President Donald J. Trump was elected on pledges to take extraordinary actions to curb illegal immigration and prevent terrorism, including controversial plans to build out the border wall with Mexico, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and temporarily ban Muslims. In office, he has scaled back his plans in some areas but pushed ahead with full force in others, often drawing legal challenges and public protest.” (Ref. 1)

     We are all used to hearing the phrase, “America is a nation of immigrants.” Certainly, this was true in decades and centuries past. But, is it still the case today? As of 2018, “Immigrants comprise about 14 percent of the U.S. population: [Emphasis mine] more than forty-three million out of a total of about 323 million people, according to Census Bureau data. Together, immigrants and their U.S.-born children make up about 27 percent of U.S. inhabitants. The figure represents a steady rise from 1970, when there were fewer than ten million immigrants in the United States. But there are proportionally fewer immigrants today than in 1890, when foreign-born residents comprised 15 percent of the population.” (Ref. 1) So, when asked if “America is a nation of immigrants,” my answer would be “YES.” As I walk the streets in and around Boston, Massachusetts, visit the local restaurants and shop the local malls, I hear a number of foreign languages being spoken and can sometimes recognize a person as having not been born in this country. As a result, I frequently have had a chance to say thank you to some in a number of tongues: Gracias (Spanish), Grazi (Italian), Merci (French), Danke (German), Shokran (Arabic), or Todah (Hebrew).

     Today, the issue of concern in the United States is not so much immigration per se, but Illegal immigration. “The undocumented population is about eleven million [Emphasis mine] and has leveled off since the 2008 economic crisis, which led some to return to their home countries and discouraged others from coming to the United States. In 2017, Customs and Border Protection reported a 26 percent drop in the number of people apprehended or stopped at the southern border from the year before, which some attribute to the Trump administration’s policies. At the same time, arrests of undocumented immigrants jumped by 40 percent. [Emphasis mine]
     “More than half of the undocumented have lived in the country for more than a decade; nearly one-third are the parents of U.S.-born children [Emphasis mine], according to the Pew Research Center. Central American asylum seekers, many of whom are minors who have fled violence in their home countries, make up a growing share of those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. These immigrants have different legal rights from Mexican nationals in the United States: Under a 2008 anti–human trafficking law, minors from noncontiguous countries have a right to a deportation hearing before being returned to their home countries.
     “Though many of the policies that aim to reduce unlawful immigration focus on enforced border security, individuals who arrive to the United States legally and overstay their visas comprise a significant portion of the undocumented population. According to a 2014 report by the Center for Migration Studies, individuals who overstayed their visas outnumbered those who arrived by crossing the border illegally by six hundred thousand since 2007. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “Immigrants made up roughly 17 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center; of those, around two-thirds were in the country legally. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “The last time legislators came close to significant immigration reform was in 2013, when the Democrat-led Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and tough border security provisions. The bill did not receive a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. [Emphasis mine]
     “President Obama took several actions to provide temporary [Emphasis mine] legal relief to many undocumented immigrants. In 2012, his administration began a program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that offered renewable, two-year deportation deferrals and work permits to undocumented immigrants who had arrived to the United States as children and had no criminal records. . . As of March 2018, more than eight hundred thousand had taken advantage of DACA.
     “In 2014, Obama attempted to extend similar benefits to as many as five million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. . . the Supreme Court effectively killed it in 2016.
      - - -
     "President Trump has signed several executive orders affecting immigration policy. The first, which focused on border security, instructed federal agencies to construct a physical wall ‘to obtain complete operational control’ of the U.S. border with Mexico. Additionally, it called for an end to so-called catch and release practices, where certain unauthorized immigrants who were captured at the border would be released into the United States while they await court hearings. It also expanded the application of ‘expedited removal’ to include any unauthorized immigrant who cannot prove they have been in the United States for two years, allowing them to be removed without a court hearing.
     “The second executive order, which focused on interior enforcement, expanded the categories of unauthorized immigrants prioritized for removal and ordered increases in enforcement personnel and removal facilities. It also moved to restrict federal funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, which in some cases limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials.
     “The third order, which focused on terrorism prevention, banned nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the United States for at least ninety days; blocked nationals from Syria indefinitely; and suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.
      - - -
     “. . . In 2017, the Trump administration ended temporary protected status (TPS) for thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans who were allowed into the United States after environmental disasters in their home countries. . . In 2018, Trump ended the same relief program for hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, Nepalis, and Salvadorans.
     “In September 2017, Trump announced plans to phase out DACA . . . but challenges in the courts have prevented him from terminating the program thus far.
     The Trump administration has also ratcheted up efforts to deter border crossings, including those seeking asylum. In early 2018, it implemented a so-called zero-tolerance policy at the southern border, in which authorities arrested and criminally prosecuted all unauthorized immigrants. . .” (Ref. 1)

On One Hand . . .

     Do we here in the United States want to have control over who is allowed to enter and remain in this country? Do we want secure borders? Do we want to have an orderly and legal means to attain permanent residency status and citizenship? Many of us do. Many of us believe in the rule of law and that our laws must be obeyed and enforced. Many of us believe that illegal entry is illegal and that immigration into the United States must be by legal means.

     There are those who resent what they consider to be a huge and unnecessary security risk and financial drain upon the resources of the people of the United states – a financial burden that needs to be ended quickly and forcefully. The Federarion for American Immigration Reform, FAIR, states: “A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States. They also have a severely negative impact on the nation’s taxpayers at the local, state, and national levels. Illegal immigration costs Americans billions of dollars each year. Illegal aliens are net consumers of taxpayer-funded services and the limited taxes paid by some segments of the illegal alien population are, in no way, significant enough to offset the growing financial burdens imposed on U.S. taxpayers by massive numbers of uninvited guests. . .
      - - -
     “At the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. [Emphasis mine] That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664. The total cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers is both staggering and crippling. In 2013, FAIR {FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM} estimated the total cost to be approximately $113 billion. So, in under four years, the cost has risen nearly $3 billion. This is a disturbing and unsustainable trend. . . ." (Ref. 2)

     Simply allowing illegal immigrants to enter and remain in this country is stupid, irrational, goes against common sense and, in the end, is a violation of law. The policy of past administrations to catch and release illegal immigrants has proven to be a travesty. The phrase Catch and Release is “a policy of giving illegal aliens a court date and then releasing them, a practice which enables many of them to disappear into the vast interior of this country, i.e., become ‘undocumented aliens’. Such a policy has proven to be an unworkable disaster.
     “After 9/11 the number of aliens who failed to show up for their immigration hearings reached 58% in 2005 and 2006. Over the past two decades, 37% of all illegal aliens released pending an immigration hearing fled and never showed up for trial.” (Ref. 3) The policy of Catch and Release must end. Anyone caught entering the United States illegally should be held until a trial or hearing or sent back to wherever they came from.

     Another unpalatable aspect of America’s current illegal immigrant situation has to do with children of non-citizens born in the United States. “There are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States. A study by Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found there could even be as many as 22 million illegal aliens here. In 2014, there were 300,000 babies born to illegal aliens in the United States. This is 10 times as many as in the early 1980s . . . More than half of these births are paid for by taxpayers.
     “Meanwhile, unknown thousands of wealthy Chinese families are engaging in ‘birth tourism’ by taking advantage of tourist visas, visiting ’maternity hotels’ in California and our Pacific territories to give birth, and then heading back home with their newborn children. This is a practice that resulted in an estimated 60,000 births in our country in 2014. Absurdly, every one of these children automatically becomes a United States citizen because the 14th Amendment, which has never been favorably ruled on by the Supreme Court, has been misinterpreted. This makes America one of the few countries in the world that guarantees citizenship to the children of illegal or nonresident aliens born within its borders. [Emphasis mine]
     “. . . This accidental policy of universal birthright citizenship is one of the most powerful magnets driving lawless migration to the United States, fueling human tragedy along our southern border and unsustainable welfare obligations.
     The thousands of migrants, some of them violent criminals, in the caravans marching toward our border under their flags are just the most recent visible outgrowth of this phenomenon. These migrants have shot and attacked Mexican police officers, even after being offered asylum in that country, and now they are headed here. Unless we take action, there will be more caravans next year and each year after that. Many of the migrants traveling in the caravans will have children after crossing the border, perhaps in the months or years that they spend waiting for a deportation hearing. All of those children will be United States citizens, adding to the chain migration problem and making it even worse.” (Ref. 4)

But, On the Other Hand . . .

     It should be clear that the federal government has authority over who should legally be allowed entry into the United States. It also has authority to prosecute those who violate our federal laws. Citizens and local jurisdictions – states, counties, cities, and towns – are obligated to help the federal government enforce our laws. If citizens and local jurisdictions have a problem with this, they have recourse – (1) get their representatives and senators to change the laws to which they object, or (2) petition the courts to declare the laws they object to unconstitutional. Refusing to obey or enforce the law should not be an option! Failure to obey or enforce the laws of the land can only result in anarchy.

     Many of us are strong believers in the rule of law; we want to have control over who is allowed to enter and remain in this country; we want secure borders; we want to have an orderly and legal means to attain permanent residency status and citizenship; we believe that our laws must be obeyed and enforced; we believe that illegal entry is illegal; and, we believe that immigration into the United States must be by legal means. But, we also believe in a fair and compassionate approach to applying and enforcing these laws! What this means is that the law CANNOT be blindly applied - One Size Does NOT Fit All! With regards to the millions already in this country – many for decades and many who have been born here and know no other country as their home – the question of their remaining and attaining legal status must be decided on case-by-case basis. And even more than that, fairness and common sense must be applied in place of some strict, unbending legal interpretation of the laws.

     Here is just one story of such a situation. The full story can be found in Reference 5.

     This is the abbreviated story of Rosa, an immigrant from Central America, who works in Boston and has been in the United States on a “temporary” work permit. Rosa could, at any time, be forced to leave.
     Rosa comes from a small city in El Salvador and moved to the Boston area nearly 20 years ago looking for?—?what else??—?a better life.
     Every night, Rosa vacuums, empties out almost 400 trash cans, and cleans our five kitchens, including 11 refrigerators and five microwaves. This is what economists and policy makers refer to as “low-skilled” work.
     Rosa gets paid about $19 an hour plus benefits, such as health insurance and vacation time. Over the years, Rosa married a fellow Salvadoran she met here, and they had three kids, who now go to public schools. But Rosa and her husband’s routine immigrant life could, at any time, come to a heartbreaking end.
     The program that gave both of them a special immigration designation has been canceled, effective next fall, but is under review by the courts and the outcome is uncertain. Known as Temporary Protected Status, this program allowed Salvadorans and immigrants from a few other countries ravaged by natural disaster or civil strife to live and work legally here for humanitarian reasons.
     Imagine being in this country for almost two decades. You’ve renewed your special permit every 18 months, just like you’re supposed to. You know the program is supposed to be temporary, but you’ve made a life in the meantime. You assume you’ll eventually be granted a permanent stay because you know it makes no economic or moral sense to take this away from you. Imagine how deeply rooted a life can become in two decades. Rosa’s kids don’t know any country but the United States. They’ve never been overseas. They speak Spanish but can barely write it. And now the government wants to force Rosa and her husband to return to one of the most violent countries in the hemisphere, a place where Salvadorans sent back from America are routinely targeted for extortion, or worse.
     Rosa and her husband have talked to their children about next year’s deadline. The kids don’t want to go to El Salvador, and Rosa would not leave them here by themselves. It’s an impossible choice.

     Rosa and thousands of others like her face the same dilemma. Children and young adults living her under DACA face the same dilemma. Would you send Rosa and other hard working “temporary Americans” like her back to a life of poverty or even death? I certainly would not!

     There is strong argument that anyone born in these united States is automatically granted citizenship under the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Does this apply to children of illegal aliens? Doesn’t it apply to children protected by DACA? Maybe. What about the children of women who come to the U.S. simply to have a baby so that child can be granted citizenship under the provisions of the 14th amendment?

     “Critics claim that anyone born in the United States is automatically a U.S. citizen, even if their parents are here illegally. But that ignores the text and legislative history of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 to extend citizenship to freed slaves and their children.
     “The 14th Amendment doesn’t say that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens. It says that ‘{all} persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ are citizens. That second, critical, conditional phrase is conveniently ignored or misinterpreted by advocates of ‘birthright’ citizenship.
     “Critics erroneously believe that anyone present in the United States has ‘subjected’ himself ‘to the jurisdiction’ of the United States, which would extend citizenship to the children of tourists, diplomats, and illegal aliens alike.
     “But that is not what that qualifying phrase means. Its original meaning refers to the political allegiance of an individual and the jurisdiction that a foreign government has over that individual.
     “The fact that a tourist or illegal alien is subject to our laws and our courts if they violate our laws does not place them within the political ‘jurisdiction’ of the United States as that phrase was defined by the framers of the 14th Amendment.
     “This amendment’s language was derived from the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which provided that ‘{all} persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power’ would be considered citizens.
     “Sen. Lyman Trumbull, a key figure in the adoption of the 14th Amendment, said that ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the U.S. included not owing allegiance to any other country.
     “. . . many do not seem to understand ‘the distinction between partial, territorial jurisdiction, which subjects all who are present within the territory of a sovereign to the jurisdiction of that sovereign’s laws, and complete political jurisdiction, which requires allegiance to the sovereign as well.’
     “In the famous Slaughter-House cases of 1872, the Supreme Court stated that this qualifying phrase was intended to exclude ‘children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States.’ This was confirmed in 1884 in another case, Elk vs. Wilkins, when citizenship was denied to an American Indian because he ‘owed immediate allegiance to’ his tribe and not the United States.
     “American Indians and their children did not become citizens until Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. There would have been no need to pass such legislation if the 14th Amendment extended citizenship to every person born in America, no matter what the circumstances of their birth, and no matter who their parents are.
     “Even in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, the 1898 case most often cited by ‘birthright’ supporters due to its overbroad language, the court only held that a child born of lawful, permanent residents was a U.S. citizen. That is a far cry from saying that a child born of individuals who are here illegally must be considered a U.S. citizen.
      - - -
     “It is just plain wrong to claim that the children born of parents temporarily in the country as students or tourists are automatically U.S. citizens: They do not meet the 14th Amendment’s jurisdictional allegiance obligations. They are, in fact, subject to the political jurisdiction (and allegiance) of the country of their parents. The same applies to the children of illegal aliens because children born in the United States to foreign citizens are citizens of their parents’ home country.
      - - -
     “We are only one of a very small number of countries that provides birthright citizenship, and we do so based not upon the requirements of federal law or the Constitution, but based upon an erroneous executive interpretation. [Emphasis mine] . . .” (Ref. 6)

     So, there are serious reservations about the legality of children of illegal immigrants being declared a U.S. citizen simply by being born here. What does that mean to DACA? What does that mean for children born to a mother who was in the U.S. solely to have her child born on U.S. Soil? Why does this child have precedence over someone waiting for months or years to be legally allowed entry into the U.S.? Again, the answers to these questions must combine law and compassion, on a case-by-case basis. A blanket decision covering all children born to illegal aliens while in the U.S. is not appropriate.

     There are laws and then there is humanity and compassion. Simply throwing every undocumented alien out of this country as a matter of law CANNOT be the policy of the United States. There are too many undocumented aliens who are honest, hard-working members of American society. Many reside here through no fault of their own – they were born here and know no other nation but ours. Some cannot return to their native country because of fear of death. Others simply want a better life for their children – the American dream.

     Many, if if not most, undocumented aliens find work in this country. It seems logical to have a system wherein employers determine if a prospective employee is in the United States legally. Actually, there is such a system – called E-Verify – but, unbelievably, it is not mandatory for all employers to use the system. E-Verify is a voluntary program for most employers, but mandatory for some, such as employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause and employers in certain states that have legislation that mandates the use of E-Verify for some or all employers.

     E-Verify is “An Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
     “The point of E-Verify is to enable legitimate employers to know whether their employees are liars or not. Without it, if you give an employer an ID with a picture of Mickey Mouse and any combination of numbers in a 9-digit number, you can probably get hired .. In concept, electronic employment verification is one of the most important goals of immigration control. You can’t have immigration control in a modern society without it.(Ref. 7)

My Conclusion is . . .

     Looking at both sides of the immigration issue, my personal conclusions are summarized below.

     Congress, the President and the American people need to immediately put an end to personal bickering, political antagonism, outright stupidity, and closed minds. It’s time we all re-engaged our brains and used simple common sense. We all need to agree on something like the following objectives and ensure that our laws reflect these objectives and that everyone gets on board to make certain that the laws leading to these ends are scrupulously enforced.

  1. We need to clarify existing immigration laws and enact new ones to clearly define the immigration process, the process for enforcing them, and the penalties for disobeying them.
  2. The process by which individuals enter the country legally must be fair, orderly, and efficient; welcoming those who abide by immigration laws and denying entry and advantages to those who violate the law.
  3. The immigration laws MUST apply to legal applicants, as well as persons seeking political asylum,
  4. Clarify the Fourteenth Amendment so that it does not automatically apply to the offspring of illegal aliens
  5. We need to set a time-certain date when enforcement of the new immigrant status laws go into effect.
  6. From this time-certain date forward, the policy of Catch and Release will end.
  7. From this time-certain date forward, anyone wishing to immigrate to America MUST do so legally. This includes legitimate asylum-seekers!
  8. From this time-certain date forward, anyone caught entering the United States illegally will be held until a trial or hearing or sent back to wherever they came from.
  9. Anyone who is not a citizen nor a legal resident of the United States at the time the aforementioned immigration laws take effect is entitled to have their situation legally reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  10. The case-by-case-legal review process MUST favor the person affected remaining in this country and becoming a legal citizen, if that person so desires.
  11. Everyone is legally obligated to support the federal government in the enforcement of these immigration laws – private citizens, state and local governments and their agencies - No sanctuary cities and no ignoring ICE.
     Some other suggestion for inclusion in any immigration reform laws and policy reforms from Reference 8 are:
  • Increase the availability and equitable distribution of green cards. This would curtail the flow of migration through illegal channels.
  • Provide a pathway to legalization for all current undocumented migrants living and working in the US. {This is one of the more controversial of the proposals for immigration reform.}
  • Allow children and young adults brought here as children, and raised in the US, a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education, {military service,} or community service.
  • Allow not just spouses, but permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain permanent residency.
  • In order to relieve chronic farm labor shortages, {supply} undocumented migrant agricultural workers a legal opportunity to enter the county and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.
  • Get serious about keeping track of aliens in the United States with valid visas. Immediately locate and send home those that overstay their visas.
  • Liberalize the law that {defines} vast numbers of crimes as deportable offenses when committed by immigrants {and make} punishments of immigration crimes commensurate with comparable crimes in other areas of the law.
  • Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.
  • Impose a statute of limitations on being undocumented in the United States such that any person who has continuously lived in the U.S. for {some defined number of} years, pays taxes and has "good moral character" should be allowed to apply for permanent residency.
  1. The U.S. Immigration Debate, Claire Felter and Danielle Renwick, Council on Foreign Relations,
    2 July 2018.
  2. The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, Matt O'Brien and Spencer Raley,
    Federation for American Immigration Reform, 27 September 2017.
  3. Illegal Immigration and Demagoguery, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu; Article 328, 4 July 2018.
  4. My father wants to end illegal immigration with this answer, Donald Trump Jr., The Hill, 6 November 2018.
  5. Where Home Is, Marcel Garcia, The Boston Globe Magazine, Pages 19-20, 2 December 2018 2018.
  6. Birthright Citizenship: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment, Hans von Spakovsky,
    The Daily Signal, 30 October 2018.
  7. 5 Things You Should Know About E-Verify, PBS News Hour, 17 June 2013.
  8. American Immigrants – Legal and Illegal, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu; Article 152, 10 December 2012.

  13 December 2018 {Article 344; Suggestions?_16}    
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