Question: A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal found that 64 percent of respondents favor allowing undocumented immigrants to have the opportunity to become legal American citizens. With the U.S. Senate considering immigration reform legislation, how should Republicans and conservatives address the issue of illegal immigration?
Drew Johnson, Editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press
Editor of the Free Press opinion page
On the right side of the political spectrum, we tend to hold three principles dearer than all others: liberty, competition and limited government. Encouraging a greater intake of legal immigrants, while developing pathways for those in America illegally to become citizens, embraces all three of those fundamental conservative principles. That’s what makes the anti-immigrant stance embraced by so many on the right baffling.
The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are coming to America to work, not to leach off of taxpayers. Most are young, healthy, hardworking men and women who will — or already do — abide by the law, pay taxes and stimulate the economy.
In fact, Former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Holtz-Eakin found that immigration reform could increase economic growth 1 percent each year, thus reducing the deficit by $2.7 trillion over the next decade.
Why do immigrants want to come to the United States? Largely because of the abundant liberty and opportunity available in America compared to the places they’re from. That’s always been the case.
For those of us who claim that each life is precious and every person is valuable, preventing people from escaping harsh circumstances, limited opportunities and oppressive governments in order to create a better life for themselves and their loved ones is incongruous and hypocritical.
While an open borders or full amnesty policy would be unreasonable, procedures that continue to keep out law-abiding, hardworking immigrants that would benefit America are equally foolhardy. Federal lawmakers must work to make it easier to obtain temporary work permits and full citizenship for people from all corners of the globe, not because it would pander to an interest group or result in votes from a minority group, but because it’s the right thing to do.
-The Free Press
Immigration Policy Analyst, Cato Institute
Two specific reforms could radically reduce unauthorized immigration.
The first is reforming the legal immigration system. Immigrants are overwhelmingly drawn here for economic opportunity but there is no legal avenue for many of them to come and work. Many come illegally as a result. Providing a lawful way for worker migration, at least temporarily, will draw them into the legal system and tempt them away from illegality.
The second is reforming enforcement. Immigration enforcement should funnel immigrants into the legal system by providing disincentives for breaking laws and focusing on excluding security and health threats. In the 1950s, immigration enforcement funneled peaceful and healthy migrants into the legal system instead of relying on deportations — reducing unauthorized immigration by over 90 percent. We can do that again.
Reforming enforcement and creating a workable legal immigration system will cheaply and decisively reduce unauthorized immigration.
Tennessee State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas
The issue as to what we do with those illegal immigrants is neither complicated nor difficult. What seems to be difficult is the will power on the part the President and Congress to enforce the laws that currently exist that would deal with the problem.
When the United States refuses to enforce its own borders and then allows those who enter our country illegally to have unfettered access to the myriad of public assistance programs at the expense of the lawful taxpayer, you can be assured something is broken.
Unlike, Washington D.C., Tennessee has determined to protect its citizens from a federal government that refuses to enforce the law. I am proud to say that I have authored and sponsored every major piece of illegal immigration legislation in Tennessee. We have passed laws requiring companies to ascertain the lawful status of every new employee. We have outlawed sanctuary cities and required public institutions to ascertain the legal status of any person receiving state tax payer benefits. Tennessee currently has some of the strongest illegal immigration laws in the country. I only wish Washington would do the same and follow Tennessee’s example.
Communications Director, Hispanic Leadership Network
America’s legal immigration system is broken. This is a conservative issue; passage of genuine bipartisan immigration reform legislation will aid the economic success of our country. The trifecta of improving economic growth, raising level of economic output per person, and lowering deficit makes immigration reform beneficial for every American.
As the immigration reform debate moves forward in Congress, we at the Hispanic Leadership Network look forward to an open, honest, and constructive discussion that will ensure a real immigration reform solution. We need a lasting reform that overhauls our bureaucratic visa system, secures our borders, creates a temporary worker program, establishes a worker verification system and allows the eleven million undocumented immigrants in our country to earn a legal status. Unlike other issues, we see a true bipartisan effort and are encouraged that legislation will pass this year.
Western Hemisphere Policy Analyst, Heritage Foundation
The United States has long recognized the importance of lawful immigration. Such immigration brings important economic and cultural benefits it to both to the U.S. and to immigrants. Congress should search for appropriate ways to encourage lawful immigration and prevent unlawful immigration, through careful step-by-step actions to address the wide variety of immigration issues.
Certainly, one of the things we can all agree on is that our immigration system is broken and in dire need of reform. Rushing through a messy, one-size-fits-all piece of legislation, however, is likely to create proposed solutions filled with political tradeoffs and only make the nation’s challenges worse. Indeed, we saw this in 1986, when Congress proposed and passed many of the same type of solutions discussed on Capitol Hill today.
To foster meaningful reform, Congress should look to find specific, common-sense solutions for each of the challenges created by a broken immigration system.