Immigration – Unsolvable Issue or a Political Football?

Immigration – Unsolvable Issue or a Political Football?

Rick Olson
January 15, 2019, published in the Prior Lake American

Last Saturday I moderated a second National Issue Forum on immigration. It is interesting to see where people from all across the political spectrum find common ground and where they differ. While the sample is small and certainly not randomly selected to create a fair representation of the U.S. population at large, it has allowed me to draw some tentative conclusions.

Everybody appears to agree with “having 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is not a good thing”. Where they differ is whether (1) the undocumented should be legalized in some manner or (2) the people here illegally should not be here at all. But all wish this issue be resolved.

Few believe that the approximately 700,000 children brought here as youths by their parents illegally should be penalized. Many believe that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) is a reasonable approach for these individuals. DACA is an American immigration policy that allows some individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S. But, they appear to recognize that an unconditional amnesty for these could encourage future illegal entrants to bring their children illegally into the country under the hope that these future “dreamers” would also receive the same treatment.

Few believe that it is practical to deport the remainder of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. So, the questions revolve around what should be done about them. Should there be a pathway to becoming permanent legal residents? Should that pathway lead all the way to citizenship? Under what conditions? Should those conditions vary depending on the circumstance? I.e., should it vary by length of time in the U.S.? Lack of criminal record? Whether employed? Although much detail would be needed, the participants appeared to believe that people dealing in good faith could find reasonable solutions to these issues.

Most understand that some industries, most notable agriculture, construction and the food processing industries, rely on immigrants for their labor supply. They also believe that the existing laws should mean something. However, clamping down on employers to more stringently verify (by E-Verify or other means) the legal ability to work in the U.S. would be quite disruptive in those industries resulting in an insufficient work force and higher costs to consumers. Most believe that an effective phased-in Guest Worker program combined with stringent enforcement of the laws may be the answer to this problem.

Also, it is well recognized that there are many positions needing highly qualified employees that are currently be unfilled due to lack of qualified applicants. About 65,000 H-1B (temporary work permits) are issued per year, far short of the number employers would like to hire. At the same time, many question the desirability of the lottery program which makes available 50,000 visas  to people from countries that have previously had few people emigrate the U.S. Might not these 50,000 visas be reallocated to people who this country needs to grow economically? And, many question whether it makes sense to educate foreign students and then require they leave after completing their graduate work in highly technical fields in which there are worker shortages.

Most concede that every nation has the right to control who comes into their country. And, most agree that securing the border is therefore a legitimate goal. Where disagreement exists is what is the most effective border security – a continuous wall along the entire 1,954 miles southern border with Mexico or a combination of walls where they make sense and more electronic monitoring in other places.

Immigration is obviously a very complex issue. However, most attendees believe that this is not as big an issue as it has been made out to be. They seem to think that this is an issue held hostage by the elected officials as it is an issue that can arouse emotion among the voters which can be exploited in the next election. My sense in listening to the participants is that, absent politics, these are issues that could quickly be resolved.

Paid for by (even if free) Rick Olson for Congress Committee, P.O. Box 1079, Prior Lake, MN 55372


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