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Give Us Your Poor, Your Hungry, And Now Your Children

President Obama said in a press release last week that the immigration crisis on the Mexico-U.S. Border had a “simple” solution–pass his supplemental funding amendment to the budget. Unfortunately, this situation has no simple solution, just like the problems and mistakes that created it are not simple.

As we’re all now aware, thousands of immigrants have crossed our border with Mexico during the past several weeks, escaping destitution in Latin America and seeking opportunity in the United States. We as a nation of immigrants recognize their hopes and fears, and share them.  We should be joyful that our nation has such opportunity that people want to move here and become Americans.  shutterstock_112633658

However, most have done so illegally. To write off this problem as the fault of a morally bankrupt immigrant population would be incorrect and shortsighted. The system set in place does little to incentivize people to follow the law, and makes it far more advantageous to break the law to enter our country.  

One of the major reasons that immigrants come to the United States is to find work. Our economy supports a large number of unskilled jobs that most citizens simply do not want to do. These unskilled jobs provide an opportunity for immigrants seeking to feed their families.

However, it takes almost 20 years on average for the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service to process a visa application from Mexico. In these immigrants’ eyes, twenty years is far too long to wait for permission to feed your family. When a business owner needs to move forward with hiring help for a construction project, they can’t wait 20 years either–their investors will go to someone who can get the job done now.

So, when both the employer and employee are under significant pressure to break the law, is it really such a mystery that we’re experiencing a tidal wave of illegal immigration?

Cracking down on immigration isn’t helping either. E-verify and increased border patrols may help catch more people coming into the country illegally, but our failure to create a sensible legal immigration system only further incentivizes people to break the law.

The harder we make it for someone to legitimately get a job in the United States, the more likely they are to attempt to do so illegally, simply because breaking the law and risking deportation is a more attractive option than remaining in Latin America.

To fix immigration, we need to make it easier to get a job in this country through increased temporary work visas. One program winning bipartisan support is the “Red Card” visa program. These visas allow business owners to hire the unskilled labor that our country relies on in a legal fashion, make it easier to fill the gaps we have in our labor force.shutterstock_17663440

The visas are directly tied to a job, and only last so long as the job does. These visas wouldn’t be permanent and in no way guarantee citizenship, which could assuage the concerns of politicians and voters who believe that a mass wave of permanent immigration could trigger an fundamental culture shift.

The Red Card visa makes employers themselves responsible for conducting background checks and hiring processes, expediting the process tremendously and reducing administrative burdens. The federal bureaucracy has failed to adequately manage our immigration system, and by taking most of the task out of their hands, we would reduce the amount of tax revenue we spend on a failed bureau.

What we do not need is the president’s proposed $4 billion in supplemental spending that only patches holes, rather than fixing the real problem. We do not need to further prop up the policies that have caused thousands of mothers to send their children across the border alone, hoping that we will continue to leave our laws unenforced.

We do not need the executive branch to continue creating laws it likes, because they got frustrated that Congress was attempting to carefully address the issues. What we do need are innovative solutions like Red Card that are supported across the aisle and address the real issues.

Derek Lee

Derek Lee is a Communications and Marketing Intern at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.

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Categories: Must Read, Opinion, Policy, Regulation
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