Given that today’s immigration system was designed for the economic needs of the 19th century and not those of the 21st century, the long-overdue need for immigration reform is decades old. Jason L. Riley in the WSJ suggests the need for reforms that include better border security as well as conditional legalization for people who covertly entered.
As Mr. Riley notes, the past three administrations tried and failed to get the job done.
- George W. Bush: planned to make comprehensive border reform a first-term priority. As a former governor of a border state, he knew the issue inside and out. But the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq war, and low job-approval ratings in his second term conspired against him.
- Barack Obama: chose to undertake legally suspect executive actions on immigration instead of negotiating a deal with Republicans in Congress.
- Donald Trump: spent four years touting his “beautiful wall” and thrilling his base with anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Joe Biden’s amnesty proposal – an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens currently living here – is really a side issue and will not solve the larger problem. Mr. Riley is referring specifically to the imbalance between the number of visas available and the number of foreigners who want them.
After World War II, the federal government’s Bracero program extended work visas to Mexican migrants to address a U.S. labor shortage, and the rate of illegal immigration plummeted. The program had its problems but ought to serve as a template. The biggest failure of the 1986 amnesty under Ronald Reagan was that it did little to expand ways to come lawfully. Mr. Biden should avoid making the same mistake.
It’s generally agreed that any viable immigration compromise will involve more border security in exchange for more visas. And it’s especially hard to see Republicans dropping their enforcement demands in the current environment.
The economy is struggling through a pandemic, tens of millions are out of work, and U.S-bound caravans are being organized in Central America. An amnesty-led immigration overhaul would be difficult in the best of times. In today’s environment, it doesn’t stand a chance.
Why not come up with a legislative compromise limited to addressing those two problems?
Most Americans thought Mr. Trump’s wall talk was comical, but if Mr. Biden has interpreted this to mean that Americans don’t much care about border security, he’s wrong. Voters want lawmakers to fix the border, not pretend we don’t need one, and they want immigration policies that put Americans’ interests ahead of the people who want to come here. Mr. Trump may have oversold border security, but he was right to criticize those who undersell it and who claim that domestic terrorism is our only real threat.
Mr. Biden was elected with a mandate to tackle Covid-19 and revive the economy, and he would be wise to spend his political capital on addressing those problems first. If and when he turns his focus to immigration, history suggests that a massive amnesty scheme probably isn’t the best place to start.
In related immigration news, a Texas judge temporarily suspended the Biden administration’s 100-day halt on deportations for at least 14 days
A statement from Texas Rep. Attorney General Ken Paxton:
In one of its first of dozens of steps that harm Texas and the nation as a whole, the Biden administration directed DHS to violate federal immigration law and breach an agreement to consult and cooperate with Texas on that law. Our state defends the largest section of the southern border in the nation. Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel. DHS itself has previously acknowledged that such a freeze on deportations will cause concrete injuries to Texas. I am confident that these unlawful and perilous actions cannot stand. The rule of law and security of our citizens must prevail.
One day after the inauguration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ordered the cessation to handle border “operational challenges” due to the pandemic. This followed a series of executive orders by Joe Biden, who is quickly “moving to erase U.S. borders and immigration laws,” reports the Federalist.