Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Republican immigration reforms lack weight, realism
On Your Right
Memo to Donald Trump: Don’t waste your time. “Birthright citizenship,” generally acknowledged as part of the 14th Amendment, is not going away. To eliminate it would require a constitutional amendment — a laborious process certain to create powerful and acrimonious debate that would derail much else we need to accomplish. So stop it.
Memo to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and others decrying Trump for raising the issue: Better wise up. Why do you think there is such a positive response to his outlandish proposal? Obviously, a large number of Americans are tired of the usual mealy-mouth, country-club Republican drivel about immigration, legal and illegal. They are tired of games and posturing for votes, followed by inaction. If “mainstream” candidates continue to be willfully absent on the topic, disgust will make Hillary Clinton the next president — the calculation having been made that she won’t vigorously ignore the American people’s will any more than the eventual Republican candidate.
This kerfuffle on the Right is disheartening because it is so unnecessary: There’s no need to “clarify” the 14th amendment. If “anchor babies” are considered a problem, change the law that makes them anchors — in this case, the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965, as amended, established “family reunification” as the heart and soul of U.S. immigration policy.
That act — the first of several significant “immigration reform” bills between that day and this — did some fundamental things. First, it eliminated the national origin allocation system established by the Immigration Act of 1921. Second, it capped the number of immigrant visas issued to Western Hemisphere countries for the first time. Third, it shifted the emphasis of immigration policy from those with specific skills to those with family ties to U.S. citizens. Following an amendment in 1990, four out of the first five categories of preference for intending immigrants involve relationships with U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. And, parents of U.S. citizens are no longer counted for quota purposes.
When the law was enacted, its sponsors promised only good things; they tried to ease concerns over the possibility of rapidly-rising numbers of immigrants. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Edward Kennedy, stated in a Senate hearing on February 10, 1965, that “The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.” Three years later, in 1968, the number of immigrants had risen 56 percent, to 454,000.
In May of 2013, senators rolled out a proposed “immigration reform” package, which did away with some family reunification Green Cards for siblings and adult married children of citizens. However, family reunification programs for parents will continue. Democrat legislators are scrambling to make sure they don’t invite the wrath of their constituents by being seen as opposing family reunification visas. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), one of the eight lawmakers crafting a separate House bill, summed up their “reform” proposals, saying “There is no true, complete fix to our immigration system until … everyone who is signed up to have their loved one (or) immediate relative come into this country has a chance to bring that family member to America.” This is an obvious absurdity. To paraphrase Zeno’s paradox of the footrace: Since almost everyone loves and has family members, the fix will be to make the entire world American.
Words matter. According to a report in The Atlantic, at the start of the twenty-first century, less than 10 percent of Mexicans intending to stay in the U.S. entered with papers. A decade later, it is 50 percent, the vast majority coming on “family reunification” visas. Between 2001 and 2014, the number of such visas for Mexico varied between 64,248 and 34, 292 per annum. Most were issued for multiple persons. This is more than double the numbers for the next largest groups, from the Philippines and India.
Serious about putting an end to the “anchor baby” problem? Stop blathering about “birthright citizenship.” Instead, promise to eliminate the provision of law that allows the “anchoring.” It requires not a constitutional amendment approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states, but only an act of Congress and a Presidential signature, both of which, one hopes, would be available on January 21 of 2017.
Arguing for such a change would be more efficient and more honest. One could state that, like most “feel-good” proposals, family reunification is a policy with many deleterious side effects — none of which were admitted in the rush to justify its passage. And, that it should pass into history, while teaching us once again with what the road to perdition is paved.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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