Opinion | Liddick: Immigration reforms now
On your right
Last week, seven-year-old Guatemalan Jakelin Caal Maquin died of liver failure in an El Paso Texas, hospital after attempting to enter the US illegally with her father and about 163 others. Open-border advocates immediately said Donald Trump killed her.
He didn’t. A dangerous environment, bad choices and a chaotic and disorganized immigration system did. But little Jakelin had nothing to do with any of those; she was, from first to last, a victim.
The facts surrounding her death are known and grim. How this group of illegal entrants crossed the Sonoran desert is unclear, but when they surrendered to Border Patrol agents in southern New Mexico, they were on foot. There were so many that it took several trips for agents to transport them to the small Antelope Wells port of entry station, where they spent part of the night. They had access to food, water and restrooms. Then they were put on busses and taken north to the larger Border Patrol station in Lordstown for processing. Somewhere on this journey Jakelin Maquin started vomiting and convulsing. At Lordstown she had to be resuscitated twice; she was then flown by air ambulance to El Paso, where she died. Her father said she had no water or food for “several days,” but indicated no medical problems on an intake form. No one knew if she took food or water at Antelope Wells.
The tragic death of Jakelin Caal Maquin should move us, finally, to come to agreement on immigration policy. It should be simple, sensible, enforceable and it should give both Democrats and Republicans what they have said they wanted. Neither party has been truthful of course, but no matter: in the name of little Jakelin both should now be made to eat their words, and a fine meal it should make.
There should be a border wall, or perhaps a series of barriers. Our determination to preserve our national sovereignty through preventing unauthorized entries should have a physical form, and it should be an unquestionable deterrent. There should also be a rationalization of the entire process of immigration, based on national requirements. No more blanket “family reunification” approvals; no more “diversity lottery.” Intending immigrants should be prepared to show how they will contribute to our nation, its culture and economy, exactly as was done before 1968.
There should at the same time be a generous number of temporary visas — for study, for work of various types, for tourism and for other purposes. This should be paired with a new program of “exit visas,” through which a temporary entrant is checked out of the country as well as in — a commonplace practice in many countries. This would allow easy identification of visa overstays, a significant source of illegal residents. It would also allow sanctions against institutions who bring in, for example, hundreds of Uzbek students of engineering management who later disappear into the woodwork.
And the new system should provide a generous number of temporary residence permits for asylum-seekers, with a very important difference from today: requests for asylum would only be processed in the US mission in the home country or, in extremis, in a contiguous country. No more “wet foot, dry foot,” or its dry-land equivalent. People on-site are far better equipped to judge the bona fides of an asylum claim than those thousands of miles away who are unfamiliar with the politics and society of the originating country.
The enactment of such a policy would be a fitting memorial to Jakelin Caal Maquin and all the others who fell victim to an immigration system seemingly created by collaboration between Rube Goldberg and Bozo the Clown. Congress could do it, right now. Doubtless the president would sign it. And all could rightly claim victory in one of the longest-standing conflicts in politics. But it won’t happen.
Too many politicians profit from things as they are. Democrats can rail against the “heartlessness of Trump and the Republicans,” stoking anger-fueled campaigns into the far future. Republicans get low wages for temporary workers, cheap lawn care and cleaning services. The only people who suffer are Americans who get their hands dirty doing their jobs, and those exposed to the perils of the current system — like Jakelin.
The only way the situation will ever change is for us all to demand it. Demand it of Democrats who clamor for “immigration reform” while hoping that no one understands by that they mean open borders; demand it of Republicans who promise it endlessly, but never deliver.
Time’s up. In the name of Jakelin Caal Maquin, who deserved better than death by dehydration in the desert; in the name of her family and her fellows; in the name of safety, security, prosperity and the rule of law, make the changes.
Get it done. Now.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.