When you hear anything about Immigration in recent memory, it usually is about a Wall or DACA/Dreamers. Yet when Congress takes up any type of true Immigration Reform in early 2018, the topic goes much deeper than sound bites. Both parties care about the topic, but in very different ways.
Critical to remember are a couple big points: Washington DC has had ZERO cross-over Bipartisan votes for all major legislative agenda items under the Trump Administration, This is a mid-year election cycle so things take on a life of their own as incumbents positive themselves for re-election, & 2018 is packed with agenda items beyond Immigration like Healthcare, Infrastructure, Spending/Budget/Debt Ceiling,
Welfare/Entitlements, plus normal business of smaller bills/backlog of appointment confirmations, etc. This last point means the clock is ticking as they cannot work slow or get bogged down, since the Nov 8 th election date means Congress will be MIA as of early summer to campaign for most part and complete inactive from August through the Election.Couple all those with this simple point; Washington DC works at an amazingly slow pace. If they got 2 major issues passed in a single year, it would be considered a land speed record for Congressional achievement.
The “hot button” main street issues and the type of recurring Immigration topics that will get most press coverage will be:
DACA- This involves deciding what to do with about 700,000 - 850,000 people who were brought here when children and only know America as their home. Research says that approximately 80% of America believe they should be able to stay in some way, shape, or form. Is Amnesty the answer? Is there another path? Will they simply punt and do a temporary patch? Democrats for the most part champion this issue, so IF they want it- they will need to give something up presumably & convince Republicans to accept some version of permanent resolution/Path to Citizenship/outright Amnesty, and then answer the question of their immediate relatives.
Build the Wall/Border Security- The Wall is a Trump signature item and mainly (if not exclusively) a GOP issue while both parties have discussed Border Security, but it also is sold as a national security issue- so can’t be defended or tossed aside without a weak on security backlash. Who pays for it? How much do we appropriate for it? Where does the money come from? What does the end product of “Build the Wall”/secure border look like? Is a virtual border (camera, drones, etc) in certain regions enough? There are (like many aspects of comprehensive Immigration) more questions than answers at this point, but make bank on this- ANY short term Immigration agreement will need to address this (and DACA) directly.
End Chain Migration- Described as when one immigrant gets into the country, then seems to sponsor their entire family- both close relatives to a much more distant reach as well. This has become a much louder talking point recently as certain “chain immigrants” have been terror suspects or more, and committed other crimes as well. This is on Trump’s wish list; completely counter to the “Family First” Democrat theme on Immigration.
End VISA Diversity Lottery Approach- Described as “winning” selection to get a VISA based on diversity as opposed to merit. This is completely the wrong direction from what the Trump administration would like to take. Yes, everyone still gets vetted. Logic plays out that those who can be more positively impactful to our Country and economy should have priority as opposed to some random generation focused on diversity for diversity sake, not on the talent/skill/ability of the candidate. This is on Trump’s wish list; completely counter to Senator Chuck Schumer’s principles.
After the Big talking points, we have recently addressed slivers of Immigration that need public discourse and a broader permanent solution as part of any comprehensive reform package.
H-1B & Spouse- This VISA is for high skilled employees (usually STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) that are brought in from other countries to fill open positions “that can’t be filled” by Americans. This speaks to how our Education system fails us consistently, but we will save that conversation for a different day. These are also very high paying jobs, usually solid 6 figures. The H-1B spouse VISA (actually called H-4) has been reduced/eliminated under Trump, and the H-1B VISA itself is being scaled back. America First wants Americans in these positions, yet if no talent exists it might force companies to outsource this work. This also gets connected to the International student VISA as they can be educated and stay/leave as job opportunities exist/are removed.
Sanctuary Status- The inability of some states to follow Federal Government protocol is their independent state decision- yet it will have repercussions. This will need to be addressed in some direct or indirect way. It might have an unintended consequence of ICE (Immigration Enforcement) over-staffing in Sanctuary states/cities. It might end in lengthy court battles, up to and including SCOTUS interpretation. It might affect funding or federal response time or money in other areas where it is discretionary. It needs to be addressed by legislation and establish recourse in a universal way. If you have been upset by Iran not operating by the “spirit” of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Sanctuary City issue should bother you ten-fold as it is the outright refusal to comply AND public acknowledgment of no intent to comply.
Deport All Criminal Aliens- The Trump Administration has made it a focus to target and go after those undocumented/illegal aliens that have broken criminal laws as well (being undocumented in the US is only a breach of civil law by itself). MS-13 gang members, those who are currently incarcerated, those who are arrested and ICE notified to process, etc are all examples of those who have been deemed unfit to stay in America as they bring an obvious and inherent risk to society. This is in keeping with the America First mantra as the security of American Citizens & what is best for our country makes this particular group not worth having inside our border.
Extreme Vetting- The Trump Administration has instituted a tougher screening for immigration candidates from a limited list of countries (3 versions of this “Ban” were created, attempted, adjudicated, and finally one implemented). The point is to screen harder those who want to come here in attempt to raise the bar on our national security. Some people say its “racist”. Some people say it’s long overdue. This is a tricky issue as we balance our need for strong national security and our desire to continue being a wonderfully diverse melting pot of cultures.
E-Verify- This was passed at the Federal level decades ago, yet hasn’t been embraced culturally across the states. This, like the sanctuary state/city argument, is a state’s choice decision and needs to be tweaked to allow some federal recourse for those who choose to ignore federal law.And yet beyond these, we have a long list of items we ignore, overlook, or need to revise or make current with America’s global & domestic concerns.
Reduce Overall Amount of Special VISAs- The Trump Administration wants a merit based immigration policy as opposed to the Diversity Lottery which has “winners and losers” away from skills, ability, or value to America.
Tighten up Electronic Systems in Home Country- Most Countries around the Globe do not have an electronic VISA background ability, so the ability to do true vetting, seamless immigration VISA applications, etc isn’t possible.
Childbirth Citizenship- (Commonly and unfortunately referred to as Anchor Baby)- The precedent has now been set that if you have a child in the US, then that child is an American. Whether you agree with this or not (depends on your interpretation of the 14 th Ammendment, but it is fairly clear and again precedent is now established), this is another spoke of the immigration wheel to deal with. Do we want to continue this unrestrained? Do we want to prevent pregnant women from visiting our nation & embassies? Do we want them to sign a citizenship waiver prior to travel into the US? What happens to the parents once the new citizen child is born, meaning the process of keeping them in US & their status?
Deal with Existing Undocumented/Illegal Status- Beyond the DACA/Dreamer individuals, we have another large contingent of undocumented/illegal individuals to resolve in some way. They have been here for decades, have lived/bought/participated in communities, attended schools- but they don’t have legal status. Even if you build a wall and solve the DACA situation, we will still at some point have to confront how America wants to resolve this group, which is approximately 10-12 Million people in scope.
Eliminate All Benefits until Citizenship- At what point does someone start receiving benefits from the Federal Government? At what point do they start accruing credits toward Social Security? Housing? Childcare? Should we E-verify benefits? Should we have a national identification card to present for Federal Elections & to receive Benefits from any part of Government? Do taxpayers have a right to know the money they send to any level of Government goes strictly to fellow citizens? Is it part of America that we simply accept this as a sliver of our American culture for all of time? As you can see- there are a lot more questions than answers, but if you want to reform Immigration this is what you will need to confront.
Eliminate Dual Citizenship Policy- If Citizenship is about loyalty and commitment (hear patriotism), how can one have loyalty to two different countries? We ask people to take an oath of citizenship, yet our immigration policy allows dual citizenship. This is not only confusing, but also against common sense. It is time to end this and ask people to declare their loyalty.
Extreme Vetting for All- President Trump campaigned on extreme vetting and has partially implemented this concerning certain countries. We need to collectively define it and implement it across all migrant nations. It isn’t about race, religion, or country of origin, but about the safety and security of America. Our good selection process shouldn’t be exclusive prior to the merits, but selective of the type of people who will better our nation by their ability to immigrate. Immigration should be a mutually beneficial relationship.
No Third Country VISAs- This is the ability of people of one nation to travel to, migrate from, a country that is not their true homeland. This loophole to banned nations must be closed. We need people to migrate only from their homeland, be vetted deeply and properly on the merits of their habits and behaviors, and be selective of who (& why) migrates to the United States.
Additionally, there are other points to add to make Immigration once-and-for-all a broad comprehensive plan, both for now & into the future.
Implement Ally Algorithm- A mathematical calculation of a Countries metrics (measures results of their actual behaviors) to define If (or not) they act in a way that is in keeping with our beliefs and supportive of America.
Immigration Tax- Anyone benefitting by our Country who isn’t a citizen should pay an Immigrant tax to offset the cost of having immigrants and to incentivize their becoming a citizen.
Increase Border Card Cost- About 10 million people access our border via a “Border Card”, this allows people to live on one side of the border yet travel across and benefit by what is in the US – goods, services, employment, etc. The cost of border cards should be raised to bring it closer to parity and reduce the amount of cards released slightly.
Increase International Student VISA Cost & Commitment- For decades, foreign students have accessed our universities and then left with their skills. Not only does this additional demand for college entrance raise cost for Americans, this also eliminates education for certain high demand skilled positions (such as STEM -science, tech, engineering, math) as only so many slots are available. Yes, we need to do a MUCH better job educating our children to set them up to compete for STEM entrance requirements. Shouldn’t we also make a connection to international student’s long term commitment to staying and be productive domestically with the STEM talent we allow them to gain within our border?
Reduce Refugee Commitment/Increase Process- Decades ago refugees were taken in for humanitarian reasons. We have always been a compassionate nation, but times have changed both economically and on national security. America no longer can spend endless capital subsidizing refugees with the benefits they would need to exist in our country, nor can we roll the dice that they are here for genuinely pure reasons. Terrorism is real, and it’s brutally harsh and finite in its outcome. We must do everything to protect our nation, both from within and from abroad. Immigration is a selection process, so all candidates (no matter which path they take to come into our nation) must be properly vetted- this must include refugees. It is not about a lack of compassion or inclusiveness, but about the greater good for all moving forward.
Raise Legal Immigration Level- The Trump Administration has made a conscious effort to reduce illegal and legal immigration. I would strongly disagree with the latter choice. We need immigration, both economically and for diversity. Legal immigration is the way of allowing our Country to benefit on both fronts. As we are at the highest level of foreign born Americans since the 1920’s and it does affect labor wages, we should monitor and adjust this flow accordingly. But in the broad scheme of Immigration, we should end up with less immigration overall yet more legal migration than we have had historically as a percent of total immigration.
Increase Penalty for Drug Smuggling/Human Trafficking- Risk and reward must be connected, and kept in balance. The penalties for drug smuggling and human trafficking should be increased substantially. These criminal acts not only break the law; they also benefit by the destruction or oppression of other people. Our land of opportunity should make it abundantly clear that this risk is not worth trying.
As you can plainly see, there is much to do concerning Immigration reform. Congress will either punt the topic, do a small limited bill (DACA & Wall only as example), or take on this broad Comprehensive Immigration Reform on a bipartisan level once and for all. No matter what they do, it is unavoidable that it’s both long overdue & difficult to reach a bipartisan agreement.
Leadership, when it comes to Immigration, will be about combining a series of difficult priorities in a compassionate way to achieve what is best for the America we know and understand, but also for the America we want to be. That is a tricky balance in any environment, especially in one as partisan as today’s Washington DC is.
Compromise is a word most people dislike and associate with Capitulation, but in this case there is no deal unless all sides give up something to get what they want. Like in baseball, the best trades are the ones BOTH SIDES are unhappy about making. Immigration Reform, in this election year of 2018, rests on the egos, minds, & hearts of our leaders and their ability to find common ground.
What would YOU want done concerning Immigration?
John Jensen Twitter: @FixTheNation Email: firstname.lastname@example.org