Yes: Tightening border security helps all who aspire to legal citizenship
President Donald Trump understands that our current immigration and border security system is failing nearly everyone.
Having our government work collaboratively to fix it will benefit not just Americans but also foreign citizens who aspire to live and work here legally.
Before Trump, the president most interested in immigration reform was John F. Kennedy, who, before he was assassinated, planned to campaign for re-election in 1964 on the issue.
Being “a nation of immigrants,” as Kennedy explained in a book of that title published after his death, is a measure of national strength, not weakness.
Among the countless immigrants who’ve come to love and contribute to our great nation is my Dad, the late Edward Eid. He journeyed to the United States alone on a student visa in 1957 at age 17 with just $100. My Dad was never prouder than on the day during the Kennedy administration he became a U.S. citizen.
Unfortunately, our current immigration policies bear little resemblance to what Kennedy envisioned. In fact, our laws have it exactly backwards, incentivizing illegal immigration over naturalized U.S. citizenship.
A record 4.4 million foreign citizens are currently on the immigrant visa waiting list, and the average wait-time for a Mexican citizen to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. legally is now 18 years.
Small wonder so many people – an estimated 11.3 million – have come here illegally from Mexico and around the world.
Meanwhile, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, commonly called IRCA, also encourages foreigners to come here illegally, which they can often do in months or even weeks – at little risk to the U.S. companies that eventually employ them.
IRCA dramatically relaxed criminal penalties for businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens.
As a federal prosecutor, I confronted large-scale hiring of illegal aliens by U.S. employers. Yet thanks to IRCA, U.S. attorneys’ offices can only charge those employers with misdemeanors, not felonies – with nominal fines and little prospect for jail time.
President Trump has vowed to overhaul IRCA and curtail federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, whose elected officials shield illegal aliens – and not incidentally, their often politically powerful U.S. employers – by refusing to cooperate with federal authorities who enforce immigration laws.
Another prudent measure was the president’s executive order temporarily suspending entry to the U.S. for citizens of seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. Though the order aimed at boosting homeland security was blocked, we’ve been promised a new, more streamlined order is coming. The list of nations is no surprise: President Barack Obama identified these countries in 2015 and 2016 as raising special terrorism concerns.
Trump has also pledged to prosecute illegal aliens who commit violent crimes here. The facts bear out why this priority is vital.
One in every four criminals sentenced to federal prison is an illegal alien who, after committing at least one felony in our country, was deported but returned illegally to the U.S., according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The average criminal alien in federal custody has already been deported 3.2 times.
Then there is border security. Trump’s approach relies on virtual protections, such as expanding the E-Verify program so employers don’t hire illegal aliens.
Yet the need for stronger protection along America’s southern border can’t be ignored. The possible benefits are hardly speculative: After constructing a security fence along its Egyptian border, Israel saw illegal border-crossing attempts there plummet.
Immigration reform demands an immigration president. Helping Donald Trump become that leader serves the national interest.
By Ruth Colker
Tribune News Service
No: Anti-immigrant approach stokes hate, solves no pressing problems
Acting on the lurid demonization of immigrants as criminals that kicked off his campaign, President Donald Trump recently issued two anti-immigrant executive orders.
As a result, a Mexican citizen living in El Paso, Texas, was detained when she left a battered women’s shelter where she had sought a protective order against her abusive boyfriend.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, and Josue Romero, 19, who are in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly called DACA, were detained despite no criminal history.
Jeanette Vizguerra sought refuge inside a Denver church in order to avoid being detained and separated from her family and home of two decades.
This is madness. Immigrants pose no special danger to the United States.
Immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than those born in the U.S., and communities with high concentrations of immigrants generally have lower crime rates.
Trump supporters conveniently overlook that among immigrants who have been convicted of federal offenses, 68 percent have merely been convicted of “unlawfully entering or remaining in the United States.”
Not one of the perpetrators of the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the massacre at Virginia Tech, the slaughter of children at Newtown, the tragic killings in San Bernardino, the murders of military personnel at Fort Hood, the Sikh temple rampage in Wisconsin, or the deadly onslaught at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater would have been stopped by the recent anti-immigrant executive orders.
Rather than prevent future acts of carnage, these orders cruelly inflict pain on millions of immigrant families and harm our nation’s worldwide standing.
There are 43 million immigrants currently living in the United States. About 11 million – though many of them are longtime residents – do not have legal documentation to remain here. They live in a shadow economy where they often accept work for below-minimum wages to survive.
Because of their vulnerable legal status, undocumented immigrants are often victims of abuse, controlled by the threat of deportation.
About 2 million young people living in the United States were born in a foreign country. Many of them have DACA status, under which they can go to school and work.
Yet President Trump’s waffling views leave them concerned about deportation to countries they barely know or remember.
The executive orders have also created havoc for many legal, long-term residents. Among those who have faced difficulties trying to re-enter the United States is an ACLU lawyer who had a naturalization ceremony scheduled the next day.
Like building a wall along the Mexican border, devoting additional resources to deporting people who pose no risk to American security is expensive and wasteful. Rather than squander money on a huge deportation force, we need to find a constructive path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, who are the backbone of the farming, construction and high-tech industries.
More fundamentally, the executive orders fly in the face of the bedrock American value of offering refuge to those “yearning to breathe free.”
Do we want to be known as the country that closed our doors to the people facing enormous hardship and deprivation? Do we want to promote explicit anti-Muslim bias both at home and abroad?
Absorbing a few thousand refugees from war-torn nations, who have faced years of vetting, is the least we can do to help the world’s tired and poor. I want to be proud to be an American.
Troy A. Eid, the first Arab-American appointed as a United States attorney, a position he held with the District of Colorado from 2006-09. Readers may write him at Greenberg Traurig Law, 1200 17th St., Suite 2400, Denver, CO, 80202. Ruth Colker is a distinguished professor and the Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at Ohio State University. She is the author of 14 books on various aspects of constitutional law and disability rights. Readers may write her at Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th St., Columbus, Ohio, 43210.