I don’t think any sane person would disagree that the U.S. immigration policy is in complete shambles. But like clockwork, every 20 years or so, Congress wakes up to discover that the nation is flooded with undocumented workers. Inevitably, the solution in the past was to grant amnesty, even if it wasn’t called that.
Today, the president calls for immigration reform, but what he really is advocating is amnesty for the 11 million undocumented workers in this country who are largely uneducated and unskilled.
While America is a nation of immigrants who came to this county and followed the rules for gaining citizenship, today’s undocumented workers, most of whom broke the law by coming to this country illegally, present a major problem for our economy and for our work force.
Here’s something to ponder: Only 13 percent of green cards issued in 2012 were for economic reasons, while two-thirds were for family reunions.
What that means is that we have generations of uneducated and unskilled workers bringing over millions of other family members who are also uneducated and unskilled. This has led to a situation where the goal is not a job, but the destination is unemployment insurance, welfare and other government benefits.
It’s no wonder that The New York Times wrote: “As Congress debates the contours of immigration reform, many arguments have been made on economic grounds. Undocumented workers, some suggest, undercut wages and take jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. Worse, the argument goes, many use social programs, like hospitals and schools, that cost taxpayers and add to our $16 trillion national debt. Labor economists have concluded that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without a high school diploma — 25 million of them — by anywhere between 0.4 to 7.4 percent.”
There’s no question that America’s acceptance of immigrants has waned. According to CNN, Americans continue to worry that immigrants are taking their jobs, using government services and changing the country's national identity. The average American believes that 39 percent of the U.S. population was born abroad. The real figure is 13 percent, still the highest level since 1920.
As I wrote in my book, Conscientious Equity, one of the inequities built into our current immigration policy is that we must differentiate between immigrants who come to this country legally to establish roots and contribute to our economy and those who come to this country illegally, especially those who harbor feelings of ill will toward our way of life.
We are a nation of laws that must be respected. That means we are obligated to secure our borders to ensure the safety of our nation, and we must demand that everyone play by the rules.
So is the answer to restrict immigration? No. Some of the finest minds and innovators in this country’s history were not born here (names like Carnegie, Einstein and Pulitzer) and countless others immigrated legally and contributed to our economy in significant and profound ways.
In fact, more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Eighteen percent, or 90, of the 500 companies had immigrant founders. The children of immigrants started another 114 companies.
So what happens when you severely restrict immigration? You lose out on great minds, or in the case of Japan, which has a foreign population of less than 2 percent, you mortgage your economic future.
Japan’s current population is around 127 million, and almost one in four people are 65 or older — making Japan’s population the oldest on earth. The population is expected to drop to 90 million by 2050, severely limiting its ability to compete globally unless it can attract more immigrants.
America needs its immigrants, so we must make it easier for foreign students attending U.S. colleges and universities to remain in this country so they can contribute to our innovation and economic growth. It also means that Congress must remove the barriers that tend to drag out a visa process that allows swift entry to the United States for the very type of highly skilled workers, innovators and investors we need to remain competitive. That includes fixing the guest worker visa program that keeps talented foreign workers employed at U.S. companies.
Finally, let’s stop singling out Mexico. Yes, the majority of illegal immigrants enter through Mexico, but thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico is a key trading partner, bringing billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. And Mexican entrepreneurs have created many U.S. jobs. Data indicate an increase of 10 percent in the activities of maquiladoras, or manufacturing plants, in Mexican border cities, which translates into a rise in employment on the U.S. side through expanded production, transportation needs and retail trade.
We need to fix our broken immigration policy. But let’s not lump all immigrants together. We need to encourage the world’s most skilled and talented to come here.
We need them to invest their futures in us. We must insist on an immigration policy that serves the interests of all Americans.
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