Now is the time to press forward on immigration

  • Greenfield town councilman, Isaac Mass. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt

  • Greenfield town councilman, Isaac Mass. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt

Monday, February 26, 2018

The president wants $25 billion to be spent on border security including physical barriers like a wall at some locations on the southern border. As a fiscal conservative, I worry about the costs, but those costs are insignificant in comparison to the costs of the providing the full benefits of the welfare state under the current de facto open borders policy. Like Senator Chuck Schumer, practically I also know that denying the president his signature campaign issue kills any deal.

The president proposed a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million so called “dreamers.” Until his proposal, Democrats only dared ask for legal status, not a pathway to citizenship and then for only 690,000. This proposal is extraordinary in its generosity, but has been ignored by Democrats. Their inability to take more than they want is perplexing. This proposal has been derided roundly by conservatives, but they also must understand that you need to give something to get something.

The president wants to end the visa lottery. This is a reasonable position especially for people who believe we need to recruit the most talented people in the world regardless of where they are from to build the US economy. Democrats however are not wrong in wishing to have diversity in our immigration policy. A fair compromise would be to eliminate the visa lottery, but take a small portion of the foreign aid budget to fund a ladder program that helped identify people of good character and potential in underrepresented countries and coach them into the training needed to meet the merit thresholds that are established. This would also partially meet the president’s stated goal of giving foreign aid to our friends rather than adversaries.

Whether the recipients eventually immigrated to the United States or chose to stay in and reform their own countries, this would be a win-win for the United States.

The president wants to limit chain migration to the nuclear family. Clearly, this is the most difficult issue. The president and allies see this as a way of bringing in large quantities of immigrants of questionable skills and merit. This is a completely foolish way to look at this issue. Immigrants with families have stronger and more stable social and economic foundations outside the government social safety net. They have people who are dedicated to their success and are vested in their lives for reasons that endure changes in the economy. While these people may initially have fewer skills, they work with an entrepreneurial spirit that overcomes adversity.

Chain migration with appropriate security vetting is a good not a bad policy. This is a policy that promotes conservative family values and should be embraced. On the other hand, Conservatives are right that we should not create a perverse incentive for people to put children at risk in a dangerous journey to the United States illegally in the hopes of gaining the rights to be here for themselves. To that end, we should limit those who gain legal status through the DACA process to chain migration of only the nuclear family, while leaving it in place for all others. These “dreamers” should be afforded the ability to have broader ability to bring in extended family, but only if they choose to follow a traditional immigration path. A compromise is doable, but we have to hear each other.

Finally, the president leaves an important element out of his plan that should be added: E-verify. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are not here as a result of illegal entry, but over stayed visas. E-verify will make it very difficult if not impossible for these people to find or keep work. It will also make it much easier to prosecute employers deliberately flouting the law. This policy would act as a book-end to the president’s focus on a border wall and establish that the intent of our immigration policies is not based on race or ethnicity, but on the rule of law.

Are we really going to kick the can down the road three years out of spite? Or are we going to engage a president who we may not have voted for, who says things we don’t like, but is essential in resolving the issue today. The president’s plan is not perfect, but it does provide a good starting point.

Isaac Mass is a member of the Greenfield Town Council and an active Republican.