The debate over every single provision of the recently failed immigration bill could be compared to a bus full of people arguing at every intersection whether to turn left, right, or go straight – there is no consensus about where the bus is heading to begin with.
There is no consensus as to what caused this immigration havoc. There is no agreement as to what a working immigration system should look like. Politicians look to opinion polls to find out what Americans think. The public, however, is misinformed and disoriented. Instead of asking what Americans think, it would be more appropriate to ask Americans to rethink their position on immigration. Many politicians are spinning their wheels trying to follow what the public wants. Leaders with the wisdom to find the underlying cause of the problem and the courage to tell fellow Americans the unpleasant truth were nowhere to be seen.
The original sins of our immigration system
The underlying concept of the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965, which in its core provisions is still in force, is that immigration is considered as a gift that a great nation provides as charity to the world’s poor. As always, when something of value is given away free to an unlimited number of potential recipients, the demand surpasses the supply; billions of people around the world would like to receive a gift of the right to settle in the U.S. No wonder, it seems obvious to most Americans that there should be laws limiting legal immigration.
When in the 1970’s the government tried to control oil prices chaos ensued and, waiting in long lines to buy gas, Americans learned the hard way that high gas prices dictated by the free market are better than lower prices regulated by the government. When the government took it upon itself to regulate the participation of foreigners in the labor market in the U.S. and created the current mess, surprisingly, most Americans responded by seeking even more government regulation.
The government can forecast the appropriate number of immigrants or guest workers (for the next month, next quarter, next year, or ten years from now) with the same accuracy, and with similar consequences, as it can forecast the right price for oil.
Why do we have 12 million illegal immigrants and why are most of them Mexicans?
We have 12 million illegal immigrants because our economy needed that many workers. Since our immigration laws do not allow people to come and work here legally, they arrived and were employed illegally. Most of them are Mexicans because they have the unfair advantage of being able to cross the border illegally more easily than Filipinos or Ukrainians.
Immigration turned into a mess as politicians voted in regulations that attempted to override the laws of the free market. Our current immigration laws can be effectively enforced only in a Soviet-style political system. We cannot have at the same time both a free market and the nationalization of a pivotal part of the labor market.
We need laws that would allow foreigners to come and work here legally. The number should be defined by the needs of businesses not by bureaucrats. If legal guest workers were coming from all over the world, then Mexicans would not be coming in such big numbers. With an ethically diversified immigration, assimilation would be faster.
The illegality of the 12 million unregistered immigrants that are already here is the result of our faulty immigration laws. We need to revoke these laws. Our undocumented foreigners would be just that, undocumented foreigners, not illegal aliens. They need to be registered. Amnesty would not be necessary.
Our current immigration crisis is a result of our bad laws. Illegal aliens did not vote on these faulty laws, Congress did. It is appropriate to bring this up, in case anyone is looking for someone to blame.
The Freedom of Migration Act – the only way out of the crisis
Given this immigration impasse, we need to set aside for a moment the existing political constellations, and we need to forget for the time being what the current Congress can or cannot agree upon. We need to look back into the fundamental values that this country was built upon. We need to come up with an idealistic solution – and then go ask our politicians what is wrong with it. From there we can work on solutions acceptable to most Americans.
The only way that a foreigner could settle in the USA should be by finding employment here. After working as a guest worker for – let us say – five years, that person should earn the right to a green card, opening the path to the citizenship five years later.
Private employment agencies should, for a fee, manage the recruitment of foreigners, background checking, issuing ID cards, and keeping records of their employment.
Government involvement should be limited to checking whether persons coming for work are known threats to the nation’s security.
All family sponsored immigration, as well as the visa lottery, should be phased out and eliminated.
Those are the core provisions of an immigration system that would work. In the course of my participation in the very interesting internet forum U4Prez, I called this proposal the Freedom of Migration Act.
Many celebrated the defeat of the immigration bill; their joy will be short-lived. Reality will come knocking. Chauvinists will escalate the border militia and press for chasing and deporting undocumented immigrants. This will backfire, as Americans will wake to realize that in order to enforce the current immigration laws the government needs more Soviet-style powers.
The greatest benefit from the defeat of the immigration bill is that it will polarize the nation even more on this issue. The real colors of the advocates on all sides will appear in greater clarity. Many Americans will seek additional information. Gradually, voices of reason and plans like the Freedom of Migration Act will get some public recognition, and Americans will change their views. So will the lawmakers.