Twenty-First-Century Immigration Policy for the USA

We hear the saying "we are a nation of immigrants" often.  Historically, this was true up to the 20th century.  It was to our advantage to import many people from several different countries and various parts of the world to serve our need to grow and become economically stronger.

Up to the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the main criterion for admission of immigrants was health, or at least those with obvious disease were ruled out.  During the last half of the 20th century, an effort was made to increase diversity in immigrants, but the diversity was entirely racial and religious and was not focused on accomplished or trained versus uneducated and unaccomplished. 

Now we have entered the 21st century, and we have 330 million-plus people in our current population, most of whom are citizens.

Do we really need more immigration?  If so, should we accept unaccomplished and uneducated immigrants, or should we insist that every new immigrant bring accomplishment and skill to us?  Should we devise a better controlled guest worker program to allow agricultural and other laborers to enter the country to serve a certain and limited-time need and then leave?  How many "refugees" should we accept – especially from the Americas?  A request for asylum does not require an automatic acceptance and a road to citizenship.  Should we even recognize or consider an asylum request from someone who has entered or tried to enter our country illegally?

Perhaps we need a much bigger and better informed discussion of our immigration policy even while we try to stiffen our southern border and procedures to prevent illegal immigration.  Our discussion of illegal aliens already here seems to center on those illegals who have also committed another crime.  This is a false distinction and one designed to lull us into accepting a certain level of illegal immigration.  While those illegal aliens who have also committed another crime should be tried and punished for that other crime prior to deportation, the illegal alien who has committed no other crime is still a criminal due to his illegal entry into this country.  These people should also suffer some punishment for entering illegally and be deported because of that illegal entry.  The same is true of those who have become illegal by overstaying a visa or by other duplicitous conduct.  If we are to be successful as a country, we must control our borders and our immigration policy, and we must enforce the law and punish those who disregard it.

We have one other class of illegal aliens.  This group entered illegally but were minors at the time and were under the control of their parents or someone else in loco parentis.  It is generally agreed that this group should get a different solution from what other illegal aliens get.  The problem for us here is not so much assimilating these people or granting them amnesty for their illegal entry as it is the unintended consequence of creating an incentive for others to get their minor children into the USA illegally so they will also get amnesty.  Thus, before we change the status of these people, we should seal the border and take other action sufficient to prevent this problem from occurring again.

Looking to the best interest of our country in the future, it is imperative that we get control of immigration, stop using it as a political football, and develop policy that we can and will enforce that will optimize our benefit from immigration as well as benefit the immigrant.  President Trump has already advanced the idea of limiting future legal immigration to those bringing something besides their willingness to work that will benefit the USA.  The president has also suggested doing away with "chain migration," the system that allows a successful immigrant to bring in a number of his relatives.

These ideas will probably reduce our overall legal immigration and make it better benefit the USA.  A solution for the rest of the problem, however, requires a handle on illegal immigration.

Of late, there have been several calls from leftist politicians and some others to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police.  It seems that some of our politicians think they will get more votes by letting illegals come into the country or stay here.  The Democrats have been accused of thinking of illegal aliens as future Democrat voters.  However, unless they are voting illegally now, this posture should not lead to election or re-election of the proponents in the near future.  Moreover, it is a bad idea to bet on future voters and a worse idea to propose the elimination of a law enforcement agency that is necessary for the enforcement of immigration law.  If anything, we should be adding people to the Border Patrol and ICE until and unless we can be sure that the southern border is sealed.

Some people think that greatly increased immigration will help fund programs like Social Security and Medicare.  This is probably not true, because all of the immigrants we would get would not be gainfully employed at a level that would generate significant revenue for the Social Security and Medicare programs.

The next time you talk with someone who wants to keep the people who have come here illegally, ask him why he wants to do that.  What advantage is there for the USA and our 330 million people living here in rewarding someone who entered the country illegally with residence here?  Meanwhile, illegal immigration raises the cost for the rest of us and forces us to pay for all manner of police forces and immigration law judges to handle those who would test our borders every day.

We do not hate or even dislike people who want to come here.  However, we insist that they come here legally through a port of entry and leave when their approved visits are over.  We expect our government to know who among us is not a citizen and to enforce visa expirations and other violations of immigration law!

Jeff Scribner is president of ASI Enterprises, Inc., an investment bank serving small and medium-sized businesses.  He can be reached at