Unless border security issues are resolved, Senate passage could prove the permanent plateau for immigration reform efforts in the 113th Congress. More importantly, if border security is not substantially improved from a current state in which even immigration reform advocates believe at least 11 million undocumented workers are inside U.S. borders and many believe the number is much higher, America faces a largely unconsidered threat to its existence in today’s shape and form. (This challenge serves as the premise to my novels.)
With border security so critical to a much-needed immigration reform process, I spent last night listening to Dennis Michael Lynch, a filmmaker who has invested his own time and money investigating border security and immigration issues far more deeply than 60-second puff pieces typically spewed as investigative reporting on border security. A link to the web site for “They Come to America” and “They Come to America II” is below. I recommend these films for anyone interested in immigration and border security issues. If you haven’t considered why the U.S. government has signs posted in Mandarin Chinese along human trafficking routes from Mexico, you’ll be certain to consider new questions after watching the movies.
I was hopeful at the start of the year that real immigration reform could move forward, even though such reform might temporarily and partially negate the premise for my books. The principles by the Senate Gang of Eight included a path to citizenship for those here illegally that would be “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.”
When recently resigned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said repeatedly in recent months that the border is already secure, she uttered an absurdity that made clear this Administration could not be trusted to use fact to assess or pursue border security. If you watch Lynch’s films, you’ll have no doubt the notion that we have secure borders is beyond reasonable belief.
Recently, congressional debate has centered around who can be trusted to accurately assess whether our borders are secure before triggering the path to citizenship for those who entered or overstayed illegally in the past. Without secure borders, passage of an immigration reform bill now would just be another “rinse” in a series of “rinse and repeat” processes on immigration that date back to President Reagan.
Dennis Michael Lynch is clearly on a mission. That mission is identifying what it takes to rebuild America’s strength, with particular focus on enabling workers at the beginning of America’s economic chain to advance and succeed and on protecting national security from terrorist attack — an interest he gained looking up during the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11. He appears to be pursuing this mission without racial or ethnic enmity, though being accused of such seems to be part of what happens to anyone objecting to aspects of the reform bill. If you have the chance to hear Dennis speak, I recommend you do so. You’ll find the discussion worth your time.
A Few Policy Thoughts
Some suggest that the United States should move to an open border policy. Only countries with no economic attraction, no resources and no enemies could possibly survive such a policy over multiple generations. Others have suggested we should stop all immigration. This type of effort would be economically catastrophic for the United States, with Japan’s decades of economic stagnation an indication of what the United States would face if we were to also pursue highly restrictive immigration policies.
The right answer is to allow as much legal immigration as economically justified, adjusting entrant levels annually based on factors such as the unemployment rate to ensure that immigration does not constrain income for entry-level, under-skilled workers and others in fields that attract significant immigrant competition. We must also ensure that immigrants are prepared to learn English as required to obtain citizenship and to accept a few basic societal norms (for example, it makes no sense to allow in someone who has forcibly married a 10-year-old girl or who intends to promote this practice).
We have every reason to expect that immigrants will begin the slow process of assimilating into aspects of America’s culture while still honoring and respecting their native language and heritage. We would expect to do the same if we moved to another country.