Three Simple Steps to True Immigration Reform: a Fence, Internal Enforcement and Work Verification

By Joe Guzzardi
July 17, 2013

More than 25 years after the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986, Congress is paralyzed on what, if anything, to do next. A quarter of a century of open borders, no internal enforcement, a huge increase in non-immigrant visa issuance and record numbers of refugees have altered America forever. Immigration accounts for more most of the United States’ population surge. During the 1980s, total U.S. population stood at about 230 million; today, it’s more than 316 million. According to the Census Bureau, one international migrant (net) arrives every 44 seconds.

Population growth’s most easily controllable variable is federal immigration policy. Admit fewer people and growth will slow. Allow 1 million or more immigrants year after year regardless of fiscal conditions or whether those immigrants might contribute to the economy invites uncertainty.

If there’s one conclusion to draw from the current congressional immigration stalemate on the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, it’s that the federal government isn’t serious about restricting immigration no matter how many valid and irrefutable arguments are presented to limit it.

While the House refuses to take up the Senate’s shamelessly egregious bill that would triple immigration levels, it’s contemplating a DREAM Act that would inevitably reduce the numbers of available freshman university seats for citizen children. And, earlier this summer, the House passed a bill that would more than double the H-1B visa category even though an increase in foreign-born workers undercuts U.S. engineers’ wages and locks them out of jobs.

Congress considers the DREAM Act and increasing the H-1B cap as reform. But while those bills may appease immigration advocates and the big business lobby, they instead extend decades of bad policy. True immigration reform could be easily achieved in three simple steps that would look nothing like the 1,000+ page S. 744 where nearly every sentence includes an exception, waiver, loophole or ambiguity. Instead of making promises that will never be kept Congress could first begin by completing the 700-mile border fence construction authorized in the 2006 by the Secure Fence Act.

Second, more damaging than the lack of border security is a failure to monitor those who arrive legally on any of the four or five dozen visas available to overseas visitors. A Pew Hispanic Center study calculated that between 40 and 50 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstayers which include the B-1 category for tourists. Getting a visa, boarding an airplane and disappearing into the American mainstream are easier than hiring a coyote to cross the border under life-threatening conditions. Because scamming the visa system is effortless, it’s terrorists preferred method of entering and staying undetected.

Congress should develop the often-discussed but never implemented “exit” portion of an “entry-exit” system and eliminate the fraud from the “entry.” An Entry/Exit program has been kicked around since 2002 with few results. In August 2012, a Department of Homeland Security report issued by the Inspector General’s Office revealed more than 800,000 cases where biometric entry data did not match the names or dates of birth provided.

Third, mandate E-Verify, a proven program that assures that every employee in the U.S. is legally authorized to hold a job. Although civil rights activists claim that E-Verify could infringe on liberties, their argument is not persuasive and, if challenged in court, would not stand up.

Congress’ lax approach to immigration is a disservice to Americans. Considering the few simple steps that Congress could take to develop an effective immigration system, what’s obvious is that the political will to do it, always lacking, has faded further from sight.

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Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org

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