The United States has been wrestling with immigration reform for the better part of a decade. During that time, under both Republican and Democratic control of the White House and Congress, we have failed to reach a consensus on how to reform our laws for one important reason: The interests of the American people have been largely ignored in the process.
The debate over immigration policy has focused exclusively on satisfying the demands of the people who have broken our laws and placating business interests that demand greater access to lower wage foreign workers, even as unemployment remains high and wages for most American workers have been stagnant or declining.
The primary stakeholders in U.S. immigration policy, however, are the American people. Like every nation, we limit immigration because we understand that what might be in the individual interests of those seeking to immigrate, or CEOs watching out for the corporate bottom line, can have profoundly adverse consequences on the vital interests of the American public.
Since 2000, some 18 million legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the U.S. Over that same period, our economy has created 9.3 million net new jobs. More people chasing an inadequate number of jobs necessarily translates into higher unemployment and lower wages for Americans. Excessive immigration places additional burdens on vital social institutions, such as our nation’s schools. More often than not, those who bear the greatest hardships are America’s own minorities who are losing out on jobs and educational opportunities.
Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich’s appearance before a group of business leaders and Republican politicians epitomized the nexus of interests promoting higher immigration and mass amnesty for illegal aliens at the expense of struggling Americans.
The archbishop is no doubt a sincere and compassionate man who sees immigration as a way to help the world’s poor. The problem, however, is that there is no moral or ethical doctrine that justifies being charitable with other people’s jobs, tax dollars or children’s education. Moreover, in a world in which billions suffer from poverty and societal violence, or live under repressive regimes, only fundamental economic and political reform in those countries can mitigate that suffering.
The archbishop is correct: We need to address immigration reform in “an adult way.” Our nation’s leaders must recognize the purpose of our immigration laws, and the need to enforce those laws fairly and compassionately in the interests of struggling American workers and their families.
Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.