Donald Trump wants to deport 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally – and to encourage their family members to leave as well. Let’s be honest: that simply isn’t going to happen.
Consider the logistics. The average bus can hold 90 passengers. If all eleven million were loaded onto 122,222 buses, each 40 feet in length, and allowing for a safe interval between vehicles, the caravan would stretch more than 10,000 miles. That’s one third again longer than the distance between Dallas and
So, we can argue about how more efficiently to remove such a huge number of people (and remember this does not include family members). Or, we can propose a sensible way to best deal with our undocumented population. Democrats and Republicans running for president have set the parameters: allow these people to become citizens, or send them home. Surely there is a reasonable middle ground.
Those who oppose “amnesty” argue that granting citizenship to people who have entered the
In other words, the dispute over President Obama’s executive action protecting five million people from deportation has some history. Opponents fear that we will see a repeat of the 1986 playbook: amnesty, followed by another surge across the border. The response to the mini-Dream Act (officially the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) enacted by Obama in 2012 to woo back disaffected Hispanics bolsters the case. The program had barely been announced when tens of thousands of young people, mainly from Central America, were sent north by their parents, optimistic that they would be welcomed by a benevolent administration.
It seems clear that allowing all 11 million people to become citizens is not acceptable. First, it would likely elicit the same response we have seen from previous “amnesty” moves. Second, it is unpalatable politically. Democrats reasonably expect those new voters to fall into their column; Republicans will not let that happen. Third – it is not fair to those who have gone through the complicated business of becoming a citizen legally.
There is another approach. Those 11 million people here illegally could become legal alien residents – a designation now awarded those who have received a green card, allowing them to work and pay taxes, but not according them the right to vote. It would be stipulated that they will never become citizens – a penalty paid for entering the country illegally.
Some will argue that such status would relegate undocumented persons to “second-class” status, but having a legal designation of any sort is surely better than living in the shadows. Also, there are already some 13 million legal resident aliens living and working in the U.S.; the sheer volume argues against stigma.
Their offspring would automatically become citizens, as are all children born on U.S. soil. Hence, the penalty paid for illegally coming across the border would extend for only one generation, which seems fair. What does not seem fair to some is the granting of citizenship to the children of undocumented persons.
Donald Trump and others are questioning the advisability of “birthright citizenship,” which is followed today only by the United States and Canada among developed countries. England, France, Ireland and other nations have long since abandoned the practice. In the U.S., our dedication to the approach has led to some absurd conclusions, granting citizenship, for example, to the children of diplomats (who by dint of diplomatic immunity are clearly not under the required “jurisdiction of the U.S.”) Like so many aspects of our immigration enforcement, the policy is carried out without rhyme or reason.
Reconsidering birthright citizenship makes sense. Since it was enacted soon after the Civil War, the value of being a U.S. citizen has increased immensely – a value implicitly recognized by the tens of thousands of pregnant women from China, Russia and other unstable countries who pay small fortunes to deliver their babies in the U.S. Why not? Thereafter, those children are not only due the numerous benefits and opportunities that go with U.S. citizenship, but their extended families can jump aboard as well.
In addition, the policy grants citizenship to more than three hundred thousand babies born to our undocumented population each year. The automatic designation should be restricted to babies born to
In a recent editorial, The New York Times lit into Donald Trump’s proposal to end the practice: “He would replace the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship by birth with citizenship by bloodline and pedigree, leaving it to politicians and bureaucrats to decide what to do with millions of stateless children.” It seems unlikely that Mr. Trump – or Harry Reid, who tried to overturn the practice in 1993 – would confer citizenship based on the Social Register.
As The Times article suggests, disputes over immigration arouse passions on both sides of the political fence. A sluggish economy and stagnant wages have caused many to blame immigrants here illegally for the hardship experienced by American workers. Many forget that one of the competitive advantages of the United States is our growing population – in part fueled by immigration. Compared to China, Russia, Japan, and many European nations, all of which face shrinking workforces, the U.S. is a vibrant country.
However, our current immigration policy is not tailored to our self-interest. We should be trying to attract the world’s best and brightest- the kind of people who, like Google co-founder Sergei Brin or Intel founder Andy Grove, Oscar de la Renta, Mario Andretti or Henry Kissinger, can make a valuable contribution to the future of our country.
Yes, we can also take care of the tired and the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But, we need a balance, and today that reasonable middle road surely seems the road less traveled.