- - Monday, January 29, 2018


The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) originally referred to a program invented by President Obama in 2014. It granted a temporary authorization to stay in the U.S. to children whose parents came to the United States illegally and who are thus officially classified as “illegal aliens.” Since this was an executive order, not a law, its existence is dependent on either the continued authorization of the new administration. For DACA to become the permanent law of the land, both houses of Congress and the president must sign off on it.

Some Republicans have opposed this executive order because they believe that the illegal actions of the parents should not be rewarded with citizenship, but rather punished for breaking American law and therefore deported to their country of origin – presumably along with their children (although this position has been softening recently). They call the Obama position amnesty and fear that ratification of that policy will create an incentive for more illegal immigration in defiance of American law.

There are an estimated 800,000 to 1 million children of illegal immigrants living in America today, although no truly reliable estimate exists. There may be more, perhaps as many as a few hundred thousand more. What should we to do with them?

There is apparently a growing consensus in Washington that they cannot all be deported. After all, they have always lived as Americans, and most have no knowledge of or ties to the homelands of their parents. The debate, then, starts with how to classify these children.

Conservatives insist that there be no path to citizenship. Given certain vetting conditions – e.g. that they are gainfully employed, speak English, have committed no crimes, and are willing to swear allegiance to the United States of America – they can be given a permanent visa to live and work in the USA. The reason for denying them the vote is because the ethnic groups of these second-generation youths tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. If the ranks of the Democratic Party are suddenly increased by one million voters, they will become the dominant party for at least the next generation, perhaps permanently. Some Republicans are adamantly against this so-called amnesty. Others look to Marco Rubio and Kevin Nunes among others for guidance on winning Hispanic votes at the ballot box.

Another point of contention is what to do with the parents and other relatives, all of whom have apparently arrived at our shores illegally. Based on the current signs among legislators, these people may be going back the way they came.

The Trump administration insists that the entire issue of border security, so-called comprehensive immigration policy be solved, since it has been on the radar of the Congress since at least the second term of President Reagan. This involves not only the fate of the DACA families, but also the nation’s policies going forward to determine who will qualify for admission and citizenship in the future. Included are what measures will be employed to ensure border security on the southern border, the most controversial issue being the construction of Mr. Trump’s wall.

What policies should be enacted to deal with these issues? The central issue, it seems, starts with the DACA children. If the USA failed to prevent people from crossing our borders illegally and failed to identify and deport them for an entire generation, my view is that it is too late to act now. Lack of enforcement over that period of time amounts to tacit approval. Time passes, and lives are absorbed by relationships, births and deaths, jobs, education, and community ties. To come along now and seek to deport people who have committed no crimes, have paid their taxes, raised their children to be Americans, and contributed to the economy would be a crime against humanity.

This is not to say that criminals, tax evaders, and anti-American ideologues ought to be protected from prosecution, even deportation. But people who have shown themselves to be good Americans should be encouraged to become citizens, and a path to that goal should be provided by law.

Equally important, however, is that the open door must be closed. America’s low birth rate guarantees that we will not have enough native-born Americans to support our aging population in the coming decades. We do, therefore, need immigrants. It is up to our generation to provide for our country’s future by attracting immigrants who can help to secure that future, rather than jeopardize it. This means new standards, new procedures and new enforcement.

A place to start is with the current holders of expired student visas, who, according to the Center for Migration Studies, constitute two-thirds of the current illegal population in our country. Many of them are just the kind of immigrants we need. They should be identified, vetted and invited to stay and become Americans, if qualified, instead of hunted down for expulsion.

Another issue to fix is the way prospective visitors and immigrants to our country are treated by our embassies in foreign countries. One reason people resort to illegal entry into the United States is because it is so difficult to gain lawful entry. The endless waiting times and backlogs imposed by our State Department are not at all welcoming to our country. The administration should seriously consider shifting that responsibility from the State Department to another agency, which has more customer awareness.

Immigration policies and enforcement are vital to America’s future. Let’s hope that the Senate, the House and the Trump administration can emerge from the coming negotiations with a fair, workable and forward-looking solution. The president has given the negotiators until March 5th to find the answer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your fellow citizens are watching. We expect you to succeed where your predecessors have failed. Our future is at stake.

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