Guillermo Cantor writes in Immigration Impact:
Over the past two decades, much of the immigration policy debate has focused on issues related to immigration enforcement. In fact, many argue that “enforcement first”—the notion that we must adequately enforce the laws on the books before considering broader immigration reforms—has de facto become the nation’s singular immigration policy. This preoccupation with enforcement has come at the expense of consideration of other key components of a robust immigration system. Specifically, policymakers have failed to directly and adequately address some of the most fundamental questions, including what the legal immigration system should look like, what principles should guide admissions moving forward, and how to intentionally and strategically tie immigration policy to other domestic policies.
In an effort to refocus the debate, a recent article by Donald Kerwin and Robert Warren offers a range of ideas that address some structural issues concerning the legal immigration system. Arguing that the U.S. immigration system does not reflect the values and interests that it is supposed to serve, the authors propose a series of recommendations to reform the system and deliver on its promises.
After examining nearly a century’s worth of presidential signing statements of seminal immigration legislation, the authors identify a list of basic principles that, at least in theory, guide the U.S. immigration and refugee system. These include, but are not limited to, the belief that: families should be preserved; admission policies should not be based on national origin, race, or privilege; fairness and due process are essential in admission and removal decisions; individuals fleeing persecution and violence should be provided with a safe haven; immigrants embody the U.S. value of self-sufficiency, hard work, and drive to succeed; fair, orderly, and secure migration sustains the rule of law; and criminals and security threats defy U.S. ideals and, therefore, should not be admitted or allowed to remain.
If we accept as fact the premise that these principles should guide our immigration and refugee laws and policies, it becomes evident that such laws and policies—and their implementation—often fall short of serving the aforementioned objectives. In recent years, for example, mass deportations have led to large-scale family separation; backlogs in the family-based immigration system have kept numerous families apart for years; the routine detention and expedited removal of asylum seekers have been used to deter other asylum seekers from coming to the border; highly skilled immigrants often cannot work in their fields due to credentialing barriers; and the widespread use of summary removal procedures in the deportation of noncitizens has signaled a dramatic departure from fundamental principles of fairness and due process. And these are just a few examples.”
Read the entire very worthwhile article at the link.
OK, let’s say we have around 11 million undocumented individuals here today. At least 10 million of them are basically law abiding working folks who are contributing to our economy and our society. Most have at least some US citizen children or other relatives. Many pay taxes, and all of them would if they were in legal status and we made it easy for them to do so. It’s reasonable to assume that nearly all of them entered over the past 40 years. Folks who came prior to that are likely to have legalized, gone home, or died.
So, we could easily have admitted at least 250,000 additional individuals each year under our legal immigration system and we’d be right where we are today. Except, we wouldn’t have spent as much money on immigration enforcement, detention, removal, and divisive legal battles in the courts.