Our current approach to immigration leaves room for national security and ethical concerns
All around the nation the death of Al Qaeda's prime leader, Osama Bin Laden, brought about a sense of relief. Our nation had dealt a deadly blow to operations of terrorism everywhere. With Bin Laden gone, our nation seems safer than it was a decade ago. Although on issues on terrorism our current approach is more positive, our approach on immigration issues raises serious problems in dealing with national security and ethical concerns at home.
The amount we are currently spending on border enforcement is immense; instead of trying to address the immigration problem directly we are wasting billions. Obama's original 2011 budget proposal would increase the amount of discretionary spending allotted to immigration's enforcement agencies, ICE and CBP, which is ridiculous. CBP has received almost 9 billion in funding, and ICE has received about 5.5 billion, much more than even the president had originally requested. With about 2,000 miles stretching across the U.S./Mexican border, our current enforcement methods only cover a fraction of that stretch and the amount of money needed to cover the entire border properly is unfathomable. Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office , made this all too clear when he mentioned that there is about 1,000 miles of border where there is basically no "operational control." Obama has now recognized problems with current border issues by ceasing operations on the very expensive "virtual fence". However, we still continue writing checks rather than addressing more effective solutions to immigration reform.
In 2010, the U.S. deported 400 thousand illegal immigrants. While this may seem like a healthy number, we have an estimated 11 to 20 million undocumented aliens currently living in the U.S. The majority of these individuals are hard working and tax paying. Through ITINs, illegals contributed 11 Billion dollars in fiscal year 2010 and continue to assist in economic growth. The fact of the matter is that our attempt to spend billions in trying to enforce stricter restraints on the border is a fruitless effort. The "bridge to nowhere" has become the modern day "fence to nowhere", and as a result, money is being tossed into a bottomless pit when it should better be utilized in repairing damaged relations with Mexico and in funding other immigration reform initiatives which could prove more effective. Millions of undocumented immigrants are forced to hide underground, but if we are able to cultivate an environment where good-faith illegals are directed into a path toward citizenship, we could have a better understanding of who exactly is living in our country and who in reality is a threat to our nation. This would constitute a large step toward improving national security and an option we should consider.There has been a negative by-product to our lack of a positive approach to immigration. Due to the lack of legislative cohesion in government, states have decided to take immigration reform into their own hands. Jan Brewer's very controversial and misguided SB1070 Arizona Statue is proof that we must do something soon to address the immigration matter. Governor Nathan Deal (R) of Georgia has followed in close pursuit with his signing into law legislation very similar to SB1070. The Supreme Court's recent decision upholding Arizona's E-verify system requirement again is placing the blame on those that do not deserve it. Furthermore, Representative Lamar Smith (R) of Texas has introduced the Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011 which would in effect allow for indefinite detention of some illegal immigrants who are to be deported. As a nation of laws and of justice, when we allow unconstitutional measures to be enacted instead of ethical reform, serious questions should be raised.
So what should be done?
The first step must be to provide a path toward citizenship so that we can identify who exactly is living in our country. Once we do this, we can then wean out the bad apples while spending less time, funds, and effort on enforcement methods in a general scope. Also, we must come to realize that Mexico is an important neighbor. We must work with President CalderÃ³n to help address internal conditions in Mexico. While border security is important, fixing the problem within Mexico can effectively remedy issues outside the country which affect us directly.
Second and probably most importantly, we have to understand that illegal immigrants provide 4-5 % of the labor force in this country. If we legalize them, economic growth is undeniable. In addition, denying the brightest minds in the country to prosper is irrational. Our country is one of many cultures and a nation of immigrants. The DREAM Act has been long overdue and now, with its reintroduction by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), it is time for us to finally accept that the immigrant community provides more than its fair share of benefits to this nation.
We have the playing cards in our hands. It is simply a matter of how we play the game. While the United States has definitely seen much progress over the past few years, today we are faced with a new daunting dilemma. Terrorism and national security has become our new debacle in the 21st century. Handling immigration reform properly should be our top priority. When we are cutting funding from USCIS while inadvertently increasing funding for methods that have proven unworkable, we are not thinking ahead"and we must continue to think ahead in order to move forward as a nation.
Michael Wildes is the managing partner of the leading U.S. immigration law firm, Wildes & Weinberg, P.C., www.wildeslaw.com , which specializes in employment and investment-based immigration, business and treaty visas, labor certification/job offer sponsorship for permanent residence, naturalization/U.S. citizenship, Form I-9 compliance, family-based immigration, student and religious worker visas, and all other temporary and permanent visas. Mr. Wildes is a former Federal Prosecutor and recently completed two terms as the Mayor of Englewood, NJ where he resides. Feel free to call at (212) 753 -3468 if he can be of any assistance to you or someone you know.