Immigration must be selective, limited

In today’s political lexicon, the word “reform” is popular. Americans like to reform things — we’re a nation of reformers — which is why sponsors of all sorts of legislation like to label their offerings as reform. Reform connotes making things better — but lately it is more about satisfying the demands of special interests.


So it is with “comprehensive immigration reform,” known in the Senate as S. 744. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act supposedly toughens border security in exchange for a large amnesty program — a seemingly limitless program for virtually every person in the country illegally.


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Advocates for limited and controlled immigration are understandably frustrated that special interests are running roughshod over the public interest in this debate right now.


S. 744 fails to reform anything. Nothing about the Senate bill would prevent future illegal immigration. The immigration “reforms” being offered by President Obama and congressional leaders, and being promoted by well-financed business and ethnic interests (accompanied by an ample dose of media cheerleading), would simply repeat the mistakes of the past.


Our policies will not succeed until our political leaders recognize that immigration must be selective and limited to protect the economic, social and security interests of the American people, and that our laws must be humanely, but firmly, enforced.

During his five years in office, Obama has made it clear that he does not feel bound to enforce immigration laws as enacted by Congress. In doing so, he has eroded public confidence in his willingness to carry out the terms of immigration law. His attacks on state-local cooperation and his assertion of broad discretionary authority to grant de facto amnesty to large classes of illegal aliens make it impossible for his administration to retain any credibility regarding the rule of law and its effective execution.


Sadly, this administration is aligned with organizations and interests that both use the issue of immigration for profit and power, and have been instrumental in thwarting needed progress over the past 30 years. Industries that exploit illegal labor for profit are given a pass, while party-aligned ethnic lobbies are rewarded with amnesty after opposing all effective methods of immigration enforcement.


Given recent debacles that have shaken confidence in Washington’s ability to act in the public interest, it is imperative that Congress address immigration reform from the perspective of the policy’s true constituents: the American people. True immigration reform would do the following.


Give Americans jobs and end the magnet for illegal immigration: Reversing the flow of illegal immigration requires that we minimize the possibility of illegal aliens finding jobs in this country. Illegal immigration can be deterred. When jobs become scarce, fewer illegal aliens come and more decide to return home on their own. We have waited too long for expansion of the current E-Verify system. We must end the widespread importation of foreign labor to take millions of American jobs.


Rein in parole: Congress must reassert its right to have its laws executed as written. This administration has expanded the use of the parole power in ways unrecognizable to those familiar with the statutory framework. Congress must step in (again) to limit the use of parole powers by the executive.


The Senate bill contains astounding delegations of power to the Department of Homeland Security, essentially giving the executive effective control over who may enter and live in the United States.


Make immigration affordable by making it limited and merit-based: Legal immigration should be based on an objective assessment of the likelihood of the immigrant succeeding. Within clearly defined numerical limits, factors such as educational attainment and jobs skills should determine who is admitted as an immigrant.


Make immigration manageable by ending nepotistic chain migration: Family-based legal immigration should be limited to spouses and unmarried minor children. Our current policy promises immigration entitlements to a wide range of extended family members, creating demands for ever-higher levels of admission and effectively encouraging illegal immigration, while ceding the selection process to recently arrived immigrants.


Enhance border security: More infrastructure and manpower is necessary to secure our borders (for reasons other than illegal immigration). We must also deter millions of visa overstayers by implementing an effective entry/exit tracking system that Congress has already mandated.


These principles for effective immigration reform were laid out by a bipartisan commission, chaired by the late Barbara Jordan. Congress must revisit these balanced suggestions for immigration reform that truly serves the national interest, and reject the narrow special interest-driven agenda that would further undermine American workers and taxpayers.

Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.