However, these gubernatorial shenanigans make two important points: (1) The entire country should share the burden of managing the massive influx of immigrants flooding our country; and (2) Where the hell is the federal government?
Although presidents have tried for years to reform our immigration laws, these attempts have mostly been half-hearted at best and quickly abandoned when they did not succeed. Congress hasn’t done much more, and Republicans don’t really want the issue to go away because they believe they benefit politically from it.
I would like to submit four suggestions that could go a long way toward getting a handle on certain aspects of our broken immigration system:
- Hire more Immigration Judges and Hearing Officers. As the case backload approaches two million, administration and congressional inaction is inexcusable. Moreover, Immigration Judges are a less-than-stellar group compared to federal Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), who must navigate a rigorous hiring process that results in the hiring of exceptionally well-qualified judges. The ALJ hiring procedures should be applied to the hiring of Immigration Judges. Additional Hearing Officers positioned at the border would be able to expedite basic asylum determinations without delay.
- Grant full citizenship to Dreamers. The House passed the Dream Act last year with some bipartisan support (9 Republicans joined the Democrats), but it has since languished in the Senate and is an afterthought for the uninvolved Biden administration. It would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 1 million-plus “Dreamers,” individuals brought here as children by their undocumented immigrant parents. Withholding citizenship from these innocents is plain wrong.
- Provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It is impractical to identify, round up and deport an estimated 12 million people who came here illegally, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for many years as productive taxpayers. The best way to manage the problem is to provide them with a rigorous path to citizenship that contains at least some token financial or other punishment for violating our laws.
- Launch a “Marshall Plan” for Central America’s Northern Triangle. Our failed approach to illegal immigration is unfortunately similar to our terribly misguided, hugely expensive and failed supply interdiction approach to the drug problem. A demand-side solution, targeted at reducing the stream of immigrants heading our way would be a far more effective strategy. Bettering the lives of residents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by investing in these countries’ public works and social infrastructures will be much less expensive and far more likely to succeed than our current “supply-side” approach, which is guaranteed to continue to miscarry. Investments should include both macro- and micro-finance.
While these four proposals are nowhere near a complete answer to the immigration crisis, they are a start toward resolving the matter and would provide some breathing space for a more comprehensive congressional overhaul of our immigration laws when the day arrives when an administration and Congress begin taking immigration seriously. I naively believed that that day had come when, early in his term President Biden tasked Vice President Harris with the immigration/border security portfolio. Disappointingly, her only contribution was to visit the Northern Triangle and tell its residents: “Don’t come.”
September 23, 2022