It’s hard to fathom anything more elusive yet attainable than meaningful U.S. immigration reform.
For decades, the country has known just what to do but stubbornly refused to face the reality of a country that was founded on the concept of people from around the world coming here to live in harmony.
Last week two GOP senators and President Donald Trump outlined a plan that has gotten nowhere several times in the past.
Republican senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are proposing to cut in half the number of immigrants legally allowed to become U.S. citizens each year, and they’re proposing that the wealthiest, best educated and skilled applicants get preferred ranking.
Everybody loses with this plan. There’s no doubt that these two southern senators are pandering to the soft xenophobia and racism that propelled Trump to the White House. This persistent anti-immigrant pitch, however, has been repeatedly debunked as an effective way to solve the country’s real or perceived woes.
Proponents consistently blame the lack of jobs, and especially good-paying jobs, on what the say is a flood of poor, unskilled and uneducated immigrants, primarily from Mexico and Central America.
It’s a lie. Numerous studies and endless business advocates point out that even with the current supply of legal and illegal immigrants, many cities and communities are still short-handed for construction, service industry and agricultural jobs.
Even if the country were to stop all illegal immigration, limiting the number of legal low-skill, uneducated immigrants would not create jobs and especially better paying jobs. Instead, the lack of hireable help would slow the economy, creating layoffs or lulls in hiring of better jobs.
And for those hoping to stem illegal immigration, this plan only increases the need and temptation for illegal immigration. Starving for labor, businesses would be even more willing to look the other way at work credentials, and immigrants would work even harder to get around anti-immigration laws and policies.
The most predictable response from those conservatives who don’t want to raise the minimum wage is that increased labor costs hurt small and family-owned businesses the hardest. But cutting off the pool of immigrants willing to take low-paying jobs will only force wages higher, forcing small and low-margin businesses to close or at best, hire fewer people to stay in the black.
By preferring only college-educated immigrants, this GOP plan actually does reduce the number of good jobs for current American citizens, leaving the fast-food, hotel, landscaping and convenience store jobs for the rest of the country.
This is not who we are as Americans, nor is it how we should strive to be. Opening our country to those in the world chased out of their homes or simply attracted to America’s beacon of hope, freedom and opportunity is what creates the vibrancy and richness that is the foundation of American mettle. We are what we are because of our assimilation of the poor and struggling immigrants who come here, not in spite of it.
Only the descendants of the tribes of Native Americans can lay claim to being here first. The rest of us are all immigrants and descendants of them. For as long as we’ve been a nation, one group or another has taken their turn in the barrel, being shunned and ousted for reasons of ignorance, bigotry and spite. Italians, Scottish, Irish, Africans, Germans, Asians, Indians, all of us have been derided by others at one time or another during this country’s history.
It only works against all of us to permit such short-sighted bigotry.
Of course we’re a country of laws, but there are legal remedies to America’s immigration complexities. The famous Senate Gang of Eight and others have created a bevy of comprehensive reforms to address every real and perceived problem.
This measure, however, is not a solution to the country’s complicated immigration issues, it’s just a way to make the problem even worse.