Jan Ting, 3/10/2013 [Archive]

Why Immigration Amnesty Should and Will Fail

Why Immigration Amnesty Should and Will Fail

By Jan Ting

The so-called comprehensive immigration reform proposed by a group of Senators and President Obama amounts to immediate amnesty for millions of immigration law violators, the lifting of limits on future immigration, with some window dressing designed to assuage skeptical voters.

We've seen this act before. The 1986 amnesty promised to fix the immigration problem by amnestying 3 million immigration law violators, strengthening the border, and penalizing employers for hiring illegal immigrants. It didn't work then, and it won't work now.

We know that merely strengthening the border and threatening employers who hire illegal immigrants are not sufficient to limit the numbers of foreigners seeking a better life in the U.S. An amnesty simply attracts more illegal immigrants, now conservatively estimated at 11 million.

Illegal immigrants make a rational choice when they decide to violate our immigration laws. They weigh the costs, including the risks of getting caught, against the benefits of a better life. We attract more illegal immigrants by reducing the costs through discretionary enforcement and improving the benefits through amnesty.

The Pew Research Center estimates that the U.S. population will increase from 300 million to over 400 million by 2050, mainly because of immigration, and that's if we do nothing. And expect 600 million by the end of the century, again if we do nothing.

Another amnesty will accelerate that rapid population growth. Where will another 100 or 300 million people obtain schooling and health care and energy to heat their homes? Where will they drive and park their cars?Anyone here concerned about the environment, waste disposal, open space preservation, clean air and water?

Both my parents were immigrants. I respect and admire immigrants, as we all should. But that's not the issue. The issue is: how many?

The United States is experiencing a protracted period of unemployment still hovering around 8 percent. Prolonged unemployment is a tragedy of broken lives, broken families, foreclosed homes, and life without health insurance. Legal immigrants, including those amnestied, will be able to compete with unemployed Americans for jobs.

If we're willing to accept unlimited immigration in order to keep wages low and corporate profits high, we should just say so and stop paying billions of dollars annually for all the immigration enforcement window dressing. But if we want to set and enforce a limit on immigration, we have to be willing to say no to would-be immigrants who look a lot like our own ancestors, not because there's anything wrong with them, but simply because admitting them would exceed our legal limit.

And if those immigrants come anyway in violation of our immigration laws, we have to be willing to deport them, in order to raise the costs and decrease the benefits of illegal immigration, to deter future immigration law violators.

That's not an easy choice. But I think the American people want to enforce a numerical limit on immigration, even if it means turning away people who look like our ancestors. To do so, they will have to repeatedly contact their members of Congress to tell them to stop the amnesty.

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©Copyright 2013 Jan Ting, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Jan Ting is a Professor of Law at Temple University's Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at janting@temple.edu.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.



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