There isn’t any actual crisis in immigration. If that sentence surprises or infuriates, you’re probably paying far too much attention to the news. The situation which has the entire nation worked into a frenzy was entirely made up for political purposes.
It’s not exactly clear why, either. While Trump aid and Politischertacitischerführer Steven Miller thinks that opposing immigration is a huge winner for Trump, surveys show that Americans strongly favor immigration. It’s as if the nation knows in its guts that we are at or near full employment and there is indeed a net labor shortage. This furor might fire up the base and make sure they show up in November, but that is still a long way away
Nevermind all that. We have a crisis on our hands because for one dumb reason or another Trumplandia thought it would suit them. Let’s look at facts and see if there is something more calm and human that can and should be done.
All I have ever really asked for is fact-based policy. The most significant problem we have in politics as we know it is that each side seems to have their own set of “facts.” There is no doubt that immigration policy is riddled with problems, and that most have been festering for a long time. But if we look at the reality of the situation we can see even more clearly that the current crisis is not only manufactured but totally counter-productive.
It may seem cold to insist on facts first. Isn’t there a place for empathy, for taking care of those in pain and fear? The long and short of it is that suffering comes from the earthly realm, and understanding suffering in a way that truly allows us to help it, to break it has to start with reality. High ideals do not fill bellies or heal the sick. Big words from university studies do not unite in love to end racism and injustice like simple words from the heart.
Facts are kind because facts acknowledge and facts validate. And these are the facts on immigration:
- Immigrants are not criminals. Every study that has looked at the issues has shown that immigrants, including the undocumented, are more peaceful than the general population. The rate of violent crime is about half the general population, not just low but very low.
- Immigrants contribute. This is more controversial, but most studies including those from Pew Research, the Cato Institute, and the Brookings Institution show a net economic gain from all immigration. Despite tremendous barriers to getting a job, 71% of all undocumented workers have one compared to just 63% of the general population.
- There is no path to legal residency, let alone citizenship. Before the law was changed in 1997, any undocumented person here more than five years could apply for permanent residency. Keep in mind that this means no encounter with the law during that time, as anyone convicted of a gross misdemeanor or a felony would have been deported. That is not the case. It is estimated that 9 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been here more than 5 years. Under the old law, they could have applied to stay, but currently they cannot.
- Immigration is down. The number of immigrants arriving in total is down from over 2M in 2001 to around 1.3M today. Requests for asylum are down from the peak in 2001, but are starting to spike up again. They are still well below the peak.
There is no crisis other than the one created by the US government. Period. That is what the facts very clearly tell us no matter how you look at them. While that is disheartening, it shows that once there is some kind of rational leadership in this nation the problems can be fixed.
Of course, we are not in a position to simply let everyone into the nation Ellis Island style. But sensible limits based on skills or, in the case of asylum seekers, sheer desperation is completely reasonable. Consider for a moment a market-based system for allowing people into the US.
Such a system could be tied to the unemployment rate for the overall number of visas. Quotas by nation, which can only be called racist, could be replaced with quotas by skill or education level. Employer sponsored visas, which encourage a kind of slavery tied to employment, could be dispensed to promote independence.
There is no limit to what we can do if we pay attention to facts, for once, and not let emotion and nonsense run our immigration policy. There is no crisis, there is only a need for genuine leadership.