LET’S HAVE REAL IMMIGRATION REFORM
Tyrus W. Cobb
An RGJ op-ed (June 23) argued that President Obama’s immigration order providing 800,000 children who are here illegally a path to quasi-legal status was a “great first step”, but lamented that comprehensive immigration reform had not been proposed. However, the op-ed does not tell us what such a reform package would look like, so let me suggest one.
I agree that we need to dramatically change the way in which we permit immigrants to come into this country and, eventually, become citizens. The problem is that the term “immigration reform” has been co-opted by those who demand amnesty for the 12 million who are now in this country illegally, rather than revising the system to attract the best and brightest. We need to radically overhaul the current system, one that is racist, exclusionary, and fails to provide diversity in our immigrant population.
This is a country built on immigration and we need to encourage the influx of highly talented and skilled foreign born who can enrich our social fabric and stimulate our economic infrastructure. The current system does just the opposite, as it leans heavily in favor of giving priority to low-income and unskilled laborers, primarily from Central America. As a result, more than 75% of the illegal population in the U.S. are low-educated, poor transplants from that region.
This is because of our permissive attitude toward illegal immigration. Our borders are not secure and are easily penetrated. Further, we award citizenship to any person born in the U.S., even if the mother slipped across the frontier only days before. These “anchor babies” and families can then move their relatives up on the waiting list to get in, since the system favors kinship (“family preference”) over talent, skills and education.
Meanwhile, highly skilled doctors, nurses, high-tech workers, and those fluent in English often wait years for permission to come to America as they follow legal guidelines. Silly them. Worse, our system discriminates against them, since the visa program many would enter under (H-1B) allows so few to receive approval that the annual allotment for these visas is used up in only 7 hours! Bill Gates and other high-tech executives have railed against this onerous restriction, without success.
We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. High-skilled immigrants, particularly those in the sciences and tech areas, are very innovative and entrepreneurial. As an analysis by Peter Schuck and John Tyler in the WSJ (May 13, 2011) noted, they receive 20% more patents than their American counterparts, they start and grow more firms (such as Google), and they create great jobs, especially in the high-paying engineering and science areas. High skilled immigrants are notably on the cutting edge in areas vital to maintaining our competitive advantage. Yet many are so discouraged by our lack of interest that they simply emigrate to more welcoming countries, like Canada.
Our current system discourages these talented immigrants. Of the more than one million permanent admissions to the U.S. in 2010, fewer than 15% were admitted for their skills. The vast majority went to relatives of the less skilled and educated.
So what would real immigration reform look like? Here are the keys that I believe should provide the framework for devising a new immigration system.
- First, our borders should be secure (as much to deter Al-Qaeda terrorists as illegals since they are infiltrating by piggybacking on these routes.)
- Second, the system should end the policy of family preference in favor of those with demonstrated skills, entrepreneurial talents, and English language capabilities needed to revitalize our sagging economic infrastructure. The H1-B visa program must be liberalized.
- Third, we do need temporary workers, but the number of these “guest workers” should be restricted, they must enter through established procedures, and their visas must only be temporary.
- Finally, children of non-citizens should not be granted citizenship, regardless of whether or not they were born here.
Immigration reform should not mean devising ways for those here illegally to gain citizenship. Rather, the process should be revamped to enable those our economy and society badly need to enter this country.
I agree that immigration reform is a top priority. Let’s just make sure it accomplishes what the country really needs.
Tyrus W. Cobb served as Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan for National Security Affairs.
(A version of this article appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Sunday, July 8, 2012, alongside the following opinion piece)
PASS THE DREAM ACT
It’s time to restore all our American dreams
President Obama’s decision regarding young undocumented immigrants is grounded in an old idea supported by both members of both parties.
Like so many good ideas that fall prey to political posturing, the DREAM Act at one time enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Initially co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the intent was to bring relief to students who were brought to this country as children and remain here without documentation, often learning of their status during typical teenage rites of passage such as getting their driver learning permit.
The DREAM Act would have allowed those students the opportunity to continue their studies, and lives, in the country they loved and the only home they had ever known. It was also in the bipartisan spirit of cooperation for the common good that consensus was reached on affording the same considerations to our young people who served in the military.
Unfortunately, these young people were to fall prey to political posturing. The political winds shifted, and immigrants were no longer seen as those in pursuit of the American Dream, strengthening our great nation through diversity, but rather as a threat to national security and competitors for limited jobs and resources. The DREAM Act, once heralded by so many Republicans and Democrats alike as a common-sense solution, became polarized, and the children it was designed to help were depicted as criminals in the land they called home.
How do I know this? I am one of those kids. I have lived in Nevada since I was 5 years old and know of no other home. I pledged allegiance to our flag every day at school, celebrated our independence every Fourth of July, and know every *NSYNC lyric in existence. But because my parents wanted a more secure future for me, because they left a country where women are limited in life and face potential violence, I am now treated as a criminal.
President Obama’s “rule change” isn’t what most conservative anti-immigrant groups will have you fear it is. It’s not amnesty. It’s not unconstitutional. It is simply a change to the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement policy. President Obama proclaimed that I am not a priority for deportation.
Our country has evolved and moved forward, yet our immigration system remains devoid of progress. If we truly want a “more perfect union,” we must come together, stop forming a patchwork of ineffective and inhumane immigration laws and get our Congress to move forward with bills like the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, bills that not only benefit our nation, but also used to make sense to liberals and conservatives alike. In a land built by immigrants, it’s time to restore our American dreams.
Astrid Silva lives in Southern Nevada.