Here's how to solve the immigration crisis

The American people need to have a realistic, rational conversation about our immigration policy moving forward to determine our nation’s future.

By our nature, we are a generous and caring people. We are pained to hear the cries of children separated from their parents at our southern border, even when the parents have violated our immigration laws.

And we understand that the family separations that dominated the news in the past week were not the Trump administration’s finest moment; nor was the Obama administration's dismal record on immigration anything to brag about. 

It’s not hard to understand how the political tin ears of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller misjudged public reaction to the separation of children from their illegal immigrant parents.

Sessions, who was a U.S. senator from Alabama before President Trump picked him to be attorney general, hasn’t had a tough political race in years. Miller is a policy guy, somewhat removed from the realities and implications of the political fallout from an inhumane policy. On top of this, the White House political shop is weak. Add this all up, and you can see how the immigration debacle took shape.

Many of us on the center-right understand the plight of the illegal immigrants showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border. We understand that 43 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are in Central America and that several countries south of our border are on the path to becoming failed states. We understand that the drug cartels are running rampant in Mexico and causing a massive breakdown of civil society and the rule of law. 

But we also understand that America cannot absorb everyone in the world who would like to move here. The United Nations estimates there are 7.6 billion people in the world. According to U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population is about 328 million. What if more people would want to come to our country under an open-border policy than already live here?

The American taxpayer is not obligated to fund the safety net for the poor people who Mexico is encouraging to leave that country and become our problem. We are not obligated to be the backstop for Central American countries’ utter failure to create democracies that will lead to free markets and free people.

While the last week has resulted in angry and at times ugly debate about how we will approach immigration reform, it has brought a certain degree of clarity to the debate.

While we are a generous people, we are also a realistic people driven by a sense of fairness and common sense, with our own fiscal, social and political challenges to address. It would be wonderful if we could solve all the world’s problems, but that simply isn’t realistic. 

We have this current immigration mess because of an unholy alliance on immigration policy between Democrats and certain elements of the Republican Party. This has already put the American taxpayer under duress.

Democrats have sought political gain by admitting more immigrants. The Chamber of Commerce-business interests inside the Republican Party have sought short-term business gains through willing and cheap immigrant labor. But be assured, in their pursuit of political and financial gain, both parties have sold out the American taxpayer and the future of our country.

The American taxpayer, already bowed by a significant tax burden thanks to the ruling class of Democrats and Republicans, is now required to fund upwards of $130 billion a year for illegal immigrants in our country. 

And if we continue on the current trajectory, taxpayers are going to be asked to shoulder an even greater financial burden. What is going to happen in 10 or 15 years, when increased automation wipes out millions of the low-skilled and unskilled jobs that many immigrants now hold, sharply increasing their rate of unemployment and making it impossible for many to find new jobs?    

There will either be unrest and potential bloodshed in the streets, or the millions of people out of work will be thrown onto our already overstressed social welfare programs. And the only way those programs will be able to withstand the stress is if the American taxpayer is hit with crushing tax increases. 

We must choose today what our country will become in less than a generation. There is a desperate need for immigration reform right now, before it’s too late.

Understanding political realities, many on the center-right are willing to make compromises to give our nation a more sensible immigration policy. One element of this compromise would be to create a path to citizenship for the nearly 700,000 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and now protected by the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program – but we will do this only in return for major concessions from Democrats.

These concessions include: full funding to improve security on our southern border, including to build the wall candidate Trump promised the American people we would get if he was elected president; an end to chain migration; an end to sanctuary cities that refuse to work with the federal government to enforce our nation’s immigration laws; mandatory use by all employers of the federal government’s E-Verify system to electronically confirm if a person is authorized to work in the U.S.; and the implementation of a merit-based immigration system similar to those used by Canada and Australia. 

But many conservatives refuse to budge on key issues, such as a path to citizenship. They want Democrats to give up all their positions without getting anything from Republicans in return. This is unreasonable and will ensure our nation’s continued inability to fix our broken immigration system.

Here I would look back at history for some guidance. There was no greater force for racist public policy in the first 60 years of the 20th century and earlier than the Democratic Party, particularly the Democratic Party in the South. Yet because President Lyndon Johnson bent to the social upheaval in the 1960s, it is Democrats who are now somehow viewed as the great advocates for hard-fought social change – when in fact, their party was one of the greatest obstacles to change until fairly recent history.

Republicans can make the argument that when it comes to addressing illegal immigration, their position is on far more solid moral and policy ground than the efforts of Democrats before the 1960s to block civil rights for black Americans.

The only reason Democrats are now blocking real immigration reform is because they want to use illegal immigrants for political gain. Republicans now have the opportunity to transform our party and our nation by embracing real immigration reform: solving DACA, strengthening border security, and making clear our willingness to help legitimate asylum seekers. This could very well turn political realities on their head.

Democrats do not want immigration reform that puts the American people first; they are perfectly content with the broken system as it is. They want chain migration and other forms of migration to continue because they believe millions of new immigrants will most likely become Democratic voters after becoming U.S. citizens. And, in fact, twice as many chain migrants have typically voted for Democrats than for Republicans.

What this means is that Democrats in Congress are willing to sell out the best interests of the American people to bring in as many immigrants as they can to increase their chances of grabbing control of the U.S. House and Senate, the White House and state offices for years to come.

While the last week has resulted in angry and at times ugly debate about how we will approach immigration reform, it has brought a certain degree of clarity to the debate.

Will we have open borders and amnesty for anyone who comes to this country, and thereby set our children and grandchildren up to pay higher taxes and get fewer government services, so government can fund billions of dollars in programs for a massive wave of new immigrants?

Or will we choose to be a sovereign nation, protecting our taxpayers by securing our southern border and implementing a fair, streamlined and merit- based immigration system moving forward?

The choice is with the American people. The next few elections will signal what America will be as a nation in just a few decades from now.

Ned Ryun is the Founder and CEO of American Majority, a national grassroots organization. Learn more at AmericanMajority.org.