Published September 13, 2011
You can say one thing about those of us who fight for serious border security and stronger immigration enforcement – we’re equal opportunity critics. We have to be. The issue is often mangled, neglected and or abused by both parties. Certainly the Obama administration deserves every last bit of condemnation it receives for dismantling immigration enforcement and pushing for amnesty. But the Republican hopefuls are due for some fair scrutiny right now as well.
By this debate, viewers had a right to expect more beef on the immigration issue than was offered in the previous three – all lacking adequate solutions for our nation’s immigration anarchy. No such luck. Yet again, the issue elicited incomplete and insufficient answers, proving that the candidates – like the incumbent president - haven’t yet got the wake up call that immigration is a hot issue – a jobs issue - for unemployed Americans looking for work, and a critical one for improving our economy at large.
Absent was any discussion that rampant illegal immigration and massive levels of legal immigration are both costly detriments to our economy and job creation in particular.
The word “jobs” was never uttered in the context of immigration despite the fact that 7 million illegal aliens currently occupy jobs that rightfully belong to legal U.S. residents.
There was no mention of national E-Verify legislation which, if enacted, would reserve jobs for legal workers only, opening up many existing jobs presently held by illegal aliens. The national security implications of lax immigration enforcement was a no show, even on the tail end of the 9/11 ten year anniversary. Nor was any mention made of the annual cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers: $113 billion.
Underestimating Americans’ knowledge of the issue and appetite for answers is a prescription for failure on the campaign trail, both for wannabes and those running for reelection. And using thread worn formula answers -“we need to secure the borders before we consider what to do with those already here” - is a transparent way to appease those voters who want enforcement while allowing politicians the latitude to consider amnesty in the future.
Suggesting that immigration is only a physical security issue solved by the construction of a fence and “boots on the ground” is superficial treatment for a complex issue. Yes the fence needs to be finished (both layers) but such a narrow focus blurs the overdue discussion needed regarding the broad impact that our immigration system has on our economy, national security, cultural connectedness, the environment, and ultimately on whom we are and where we’re going.
If a candidate wants to lead on this issue, he/she needs to commit to five things.
1. Believing in the originally intended purpose of immigration: a tool to serve our broad national interests unencumbered by business, political and ethno-centric special interest influences.
2. Securing the border.
3. Drying up the incentives to come here illegally by reducing the benefits – driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, automatic birthright citizenship, and sanctuary city policies that aid and abet illegal behavior.
4. Making sure that immigration laws are enforced, universally applied, and not politically prioritized at the local, state and federal level.
5. Reducing excessive levels of legal immigration to reduce pressure on scarce jobs, energy resources and environmental demands.
Any person hoping to lead our nation while failing to endorse all these reforms demonstrates that they do not fully comprehend the purpose of immigration and the link between jobs and immigration. And they are demonstrating an unwillingness to fulfill their obligation to protect the American worker. With high unemployment and economic meltdowns at every level of government, connecting with voters requires acknowledging that any and all immigration policy reforms must have the American worker and taxpayer as the intended beneficiary.
Bob Dane is Communications Director for FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Kristen Williamson is Communications Assistant for FAIR.