His diagnosis is correct, but the treatment he is proposing is unrealistic
Donald Trump’s stance on illegal immigration
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By shining a spotlight on illegal immigration, Donald Trump has touched a raw nerve in the American body politic. While what he promises to do is unrealistic, by bringing the issue to the fore, he is forcing the other candidates to spell out what they would do to stop the flood of illegal immigrants and secure our borders. For this, if nothing else, we owe him our thanks.
Donald Trump has said that if elected President he would round up and deport all of the illegal immigrants living in the United States. Then to make sure they didn’t reenter our country he would make Mexico pay to build an impenetrable wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico along the entire 1,952 miles of our southern border. His ringing rhetoric has great populist appeal, but the simple truth is that finding, arresting and deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the US would be about as unrealistic as traveling from the earth to the moon in a hot air balloon.
During the 2012 presidential campaign Mitt Romney was excoriated by the mainstream media for saying that he favored the “self deportation” of illegal immigrants. Romney never spelled out the approach he would have taken if elected to achieve self deportation, but he was on the right track. Mr. Trump’s bluster will not solve our nation’s illegal immigration crisis. Neither will so-called comprehensive immigration reform nor by themselves greater efforts to secure the southern border. However, the crisis can be solved by taking a few simple steps which involve a combination of enforcing existing laws and enacting several changes to existing legislation.
Let’s start with the current laws that need to be vigorously enforced:
Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants are subject to criminal penalties of up to $3,000 for each illegal hired and/or 6 months imprisonment.
Persons who enter the United States illegally are subject to criminal penalties of up to 6 months imprisonment for a first offense and up to 2 years for repeat offenses. Persons using fraudulent documents for the purposes of employee eligibility can be sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Persons who stay in the US for 6-12 months beyond the expiration of their visa are barred from reentering the United States for a period of 3 years. Those who overstay their visas by more than a year are barred from reentering the US for 10 years.
The Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act imposes severe penalties on financial institutions and their employees who engage in money laundering. It is a crime to be in the United States illegally. An employee of a financial institution that knows or suspects an illegal alien is seeking to transfer funds to a foreign account is guilty of money laundering. Individuals, including bank employees, can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for a money laundering transaction. Businesses can be fined $500,000.
Now for the legislative changes that are needed:
The Department of Homeland Security maintains an Internet-based system, E-Verify, that enables employers using the information provided by a job applicant on his or her I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) to determine the eligibility of that person to work in the United States. Currently the use of E-Verify is mandatory only for Federal contract employers. Require all employers to use E-Verify
Illegal Hispanic immigrants currently make up approximately 5.1% of the US civilian labor force. The United States has an H-2A program for temporary agricultural workers and an H-2B program for temporary non-agricultural workers. These programs allow US employers to bring foreign nationals to the US to fill temporary or seasonal jobs for which US workers are not available. There is no cap on the number of temporary agricultural worker visas (H-2A) that may be issued annually, but the number of non-agricultural temporary worker visas (H-2B) that can be issued annually is capped at 66,000.
Under both programs the employer must demonstrate that there are not a sufficient number of US workers who are able, willing and available to do the job. The employer pays the cost of transporting the foreign national from his or her country to the United States and the return transportation cost at the completion of the employment contract. Remove the cap on H-2B visas and require employers to apply for H-2B visas for any illegal immigrants in their employ.
There is little incentive to enter or remain in the US illegally if you can’t work or send money home. Once we begin to enforce our laws requiring employers to verify the eligibility of job applicants to work in the United States and requiring banks and other financial institutions to report any attempts by illegal immigrants to remit funds to a foreign country, the influx of illegal immigrants who cross our border with Mexico to find work will be reduced to a trickle, and those who are already here but can no longer find work will return home.
We still will need to do a better job of securing our southern border, but once the tide of illegal immigrants is stemmed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be in a better position to devote its limited resources to preventing terrorists, drug smugglers, people traffickers and other criminals from crossing our borders.
One point that Donald Trump is making is spot on: anchor babies provide a back door to citizenship. It is estimated that 7% of K-12 students in the US have an illegal immigrant parent, and approximately 80% of those children were born in the US. The first sentence of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Written in 1866 to extend US citizenship to recently emancipated African-Americans, the amendment was never intended to grant United States citizenship to the children of foreign nationals born on US soil. To prevent illegal immigrants and temporary workers from using anchor babies as a shortcut to citizenship, a constitutional amendment granting citizenship only to children of United States citizens needs to be adopted, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. One step that should be taken immediately is to stop our Consulates from issuing visitor (B-2) visas to pregnant women who want to come to the US to have their babies.
Following the steps I’ve laid out will not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but they will end the influx of people from Mexico and Central America who cross into the US to find work, and allow us to regain control of our borders. They will convert employed illegal immigrants into law abiding taxpaying temporary workers, provide for the self-deportation of those who do not receive temporary worker visas and the imprisonment and deportation of those who do try to remain in the US illegally.