In a recent conference on the economic state of California, historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson spoke on the consequences of our flawed immigration system. He remarked on the hypocrisy of Silicon Valley tech moguls, who preach on income equality and immigration from their ivory towers while the working class suffers. The elites of California, he said, want mass immigration until the consequences affect them; afraid of growing communities of poor, non-English speaking immigrants, they lock themselves away in gated communities and place their children in private schools. In 2016, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said “”I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people” all the while constructing a wall surrounding his palatial estate in Hawaii.
Hanson posits that the issue with our current immigration system is priority. At the time being, potential entrants are considered on equal standing, with priority given to family members. However, our system should judge entrants by their merit: High skill individuals with English knowledge and capital for investment helps benefit local economies and integrates faster into communities, while low skill individuals with little or no English knowledge or capital lead to labor abuse, isolation through tribalism, and maintaining a status quo of low income.
Our current immigration system is built upon exploitation and division. Incoming migrants are brought in to be used, and discouraged from fully integrating into American society in order to sow greater divisions between us. In lieu of the failings of our immigration system, it is incredibly important to discuss what can be done to resolve these problems. In 1990, a federal commission was founded to consider the necessity of immigration reform. Seven years later, they published their findings and found four crucial aspects to ensuring successful immigration.
The first of these is the enforcement of immigration limits. This is perhaps the most vital piece to maintaining a successful immigration system. The Jordan report states “An effectively regulated immigration policy establishes limits on the number of immigrants that are consistent with the goals of the various categories under which immigrants enter. Moreover, these limits must be enforceable and enforced.” We must regard these limits through the lens of reality, and not through fantastical means such as a massive border wall.
Clarity of the law and efficiency of process is perhaps the utmost asset to a successful immigration system. Our laws have remained byzantine in word and practice, strung together with endless amounts of red tape. An effectively regulated system also requires some flexibility with regard to numbers so as to permit adjustment as circumstances in the United States change.
The Jordan commission recommends that “Immigration policy should not be overly complex, and the mechanisms used to implement immigration policy should be efficient and comprehensible. The terms used should be as clear and self-explanatory as possible.” the report goes on, “The number of visas allocated to various immigrant categories should be sufficient to ensure the expeditious entry of those of highest priority. Backlogs in high priority categories undermine the purposes of immigration policy, while backlogs in lower priority categories give false hope to individuals whose admissions are of lesser national interest.”
The final aspect of a successful immigration system is ensuring a successful integration process. While it is important to respect the traditions and cultures of one’s original country, rejection of Americanization as a whole can lead to tribalism and division between communities. “Immigration policy is not credible without attention to English language training, civic education, and preparation for naturalization and effective citizen participation. Americanization—by which we mean cultivation of a shared commitment to the American values of liberty, democracy, and equal opportunity—is desirable and possible regardless of the nationality, native language, or religious background of immigrants and their children.” By encouraging entrants to naturalize through civics and language education, we can ease their transition into citizenship and help them realize their potential.
America has understood that our immigration system is flawed for a long time, and now we should finally act and fix it. We need to streamline our current system, prioritize merit, and limit entry to maintainable levels. We can help move our country forward together, immigrants and native, but we have to make the first step.