Bipartisan Solutions to Immigration Crisis Never Implemented yet Still Relevant
Given today’s heated political divide, it may be hard to imagine there actually was a time when Washington lawmakers more or less agreed that immigration policy should be remedied to serve a definable national purpose. This was, of course, before it dawned on Democrats that doubling down on an endless flow of low-skilled, government-dependent immigrants could solidify the electorate in their favor, and before Republican Leadership became puppets of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its relentless push for more cheap foreign labor.
The U.S. Commission on Immigration was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Its chairwoman, Barbara Jordan, was later selected by President Bill Clinton. Jordan was an African-American Texas congresswoman, civil rights activist and a leading, iconic figure within the Democrat party who presided over the commission of five Democrats and four Republicans. Their work over five years included 15 roundtables with experts and scholars, 18 research papers and impact studies, seven site visits and eight public hearings. (Contrast Jordan’s exhaustive and open process with Obama’s backdoor rewriting of enforcement policies and pen-stroke amnesties).
In 1995 the Commission released most of their recommendations. Unfortunately, as noted below none have materialized:
- Improved border security. While the Border Patrol has seen a 75% increase in its budget and a doubling of its staff in the past decade, the fence is still not finished and DHS estimates that only 44% of it is under operational control. Almost 400,000 illegal are caught crossing each year but the Border Patrol estimates that same number may be getting through undetected. That includes drug cartels, human traffickers and 10,000 aliens whom DHS suggests may be from countries hosting terrorists or countries through which they travel. But the brilliance of the Jordan Commission is that it understood that while border security is vital, crossings will continue unless America stops the incentives to enter and vigorously enforces the laws on the interior.
- Dry up the employment magnet. This is arguably the most important recommendation, yet 20 years later only eight states require all or most public and private employers to use E-Verify. Of 11.9 million illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S., 8.5 million of them are employed.
- Ensure that illegal aliens do not receive public benefits except emergency medical care. Jordan – now deceased – would be shocked at the honey pot of benefits illegal aliens enjoy. Today, illegal aliens are eligible for in-state tuition in 18 states, they can receive driver’s licenses in 10 states plus Washington, D.C., 39% of illegal alien households receive the Earned Income Tax Credit by virtue of their native-born children, and they receive $4.2 billion annually from the Additional Child Tax Credit (an increase of 400 percent from just five years ago.)
- Expedited removal of criminal aliens and more vigorous use of detainers so that deportation orders are made while criminal aliens are still in jail. The use of detainers is quickly becoming obsolete. Three states, 29 cities and 266 counties now have legislation that prohibits local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE. And despite assurances from the Obama administration that violent offenders are a priority for removal, the House Judiciary Committee revealed that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released 30,558 criminal aliens with a total of 79,059 criminal convictions back onto the streets in fiscal year 2014. These convictions included 86 homicide convictions; 186 kidnapping convictions; 373 sexual assault convictions; 449 commercialized sexual offenses; 1,194 battery convictions; 1,346 domestic violence convictions; and 13,636 driving under the influence of alcohol convictions.
- Reduce legal immigration by 30 percent to about 550,000 per year. Immigration still remains around one million each year; in 2013, 990,553 foreign nationals became lawful permanent residents. New Census Bureau data shows the nation’s total population will grow to 417 million by 2060 — 108 million more than in 2010, three quarters of it driven by immigration. This increase is roughly equivalent to adding the combined populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts to the country.
- Emphasize skilled based immigration and end chain migration by allowing immigrants to sponsor only spouses and minor children rather than extended families. Currently, only 5.8% of all annual immigrant admissions are skilled-based which means the vast majority of immigrants end up working low-wage, entry-level jobs. This displaces American workers and erodes wages for those who can least afford it. Chain migration is an exponential multiplier that dramatically increases immigration in unexpected ways because by granting just one visa to one person, we open the door to perhaps dozens and dozens more since extended family can be petitioned. The Jordan Commission recognized, as do we, that chain migration isn’t a nuclear family program – it’s an intergenerational relocation program with no identifiable benefit for America.
It’s been two decades since America has seen any credible, bipartisan attempt to identify immigration solutions based on a solid foundation of principles similar to the one upon which Barbara Jordon premised her commission’s work; “Immigration, like foreign policy, ought to be a place where the national interest comes first, last and always.”
Those in office and those running for office should read the Jordan Commission report because then, and now, that principle was and is the key to sound immigration public policy.
Additional Resources: Recalling “The Americanization Ideal”: The Legacy of Barbara Jordan