When the rhetoric on immigration dies down after the presidential campaigns in late 2016, the nation will need to get serious about resolving the issue. It is untenable to have 11 million people floating in political no man’s land.
(The 2017 dialogue will not include a wall on the Canadian border as a “legitimate issue,” per Gov. Walker. That non-issue was DOA.)
We as a nation will have to temper the heated ideology on immigration with a compromise up the middle. The polarization that divides us will have to give way to problem solving.
Is there a middle ground that would work? Let’s work through it.
On the far right with Walker, Cruz, Trump and Ann Coulter, the primal political fear is that 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants (both numbers are thrown around) would vote Democratic if given citizenship and would become burdens on our society.
Neither of those propositions is a sure thing, but let’s deal with the political imperative to deal with those concerns.
Ditto for the chorus from the right that wants a more secure southern border.
The left wing candidates like Clinton and Sanders want a quick route to citizenship. They want the Hispanic vote in 2016 and they want to build the Democratic base for future elections.
In the middle are business managers, many of whom say they need the immigrant workers, both legal and illegal. Gov. Walker, who wants to throttle back even legal immigration, isn’t listening to them. His tin ear doesn’t hear the state’s dairy farmers, who depend heavily on immigrant labor.
Businesses want both low skill workers and high skill workers who come to the states on HB1 visas. Those guest workers are critical to growth in some companies.
It is beyond debate that smart, hard working immigrants have propelled the economy since the country’s founding. Today, their ranks include dynamic entrepreneurs and top executives, particularly in the high tech sector.
With that wide-ranging political framework, a pragmatic middle ground presents itself:
1. Provide work permits (green cards) to existing illegal immigrants who are employed and law-abiding. (Mass deportation would be a disaster in human and financial terms.) Stop short of full citizenship that would legitimatize illegal entry and give illegals the vote.
2. Put up the funds to seal the border to avoid increases in illegal entry. Use technology to make that happen.
3. Continue the long-standing practice of granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. Their birthright status is protected by the 14th Amendment. There is no certainty that those offspring will attach to one party or the other. The two parties will have to make their cases to win them as they mature.
4. Reset the rules to give priority to smart, well-educated foreigners who can stimulate our economy. Expand HBI quotas from the current 85,000 total. Give green cards and a path to citizenship to foreign graduates in STEM disciplines from U.S. colleges and universities.
5. Keep the flow of legal immigrants at current levels, partly to offset declining birthrates here, party to alleviate the massive refugee flood in war-torn parts of the world.
As with any compromise, such a middle-ground plan will make no one completely happy. But it offers a pragmatic answer to a problem that demands a solution.