Whatever anyone might think of Donald Trump, his recently unveiled blueprint for immigration reform is a serious plan, worthy of serious consideration. It fundamentally changes the terms of a long-simmering debate that has consistently failed to reach any sort of resolution by establishing a public interest objective, coupled with meaningful deterrence and enforcement.
Three times in the past decade — 2006, 2007, and 2013 — bipartisan immigration “reform” legislation has died in Congress because the plans being proposed were strongly opposed by the American public. Each of those attempts at overhauling our immigration policies were centered on satisfying the demands of millions of people who broke our laws and businesses that wanted even greater access to cheaper foreign labor.
Little, if any, attention was paid to the interests of the American people and the impact that mass amnesty and massive increases in immigration would have on workers, taxpayers, or the common good. The best the politicians could offer were promises of future enforcement — the same ones that had been made and broken countless times — and worthless blather about securing the border, even as they provided new incentives for people to cross it. Understandably, the American public vehemently rejected these bipartisan efforts to sell them out.
Trump’s position paper, “Immigration Reform that Will Make America Great Again,” represents a real break with past failed attempts to enact immigration reform. First and foremost, it defines a public interest objective for immigration: “Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first — not wealthy globetrotting donors… Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans,” states the document.
To safeguard these vital interests, the plan offers a commonsense combination of deterrence and enforcement. It relies on the reality that illegal aliens are rational people who can be deterred from breaking the law if we make it clear they will not benefit from doing so, and meaningful enforcement against those who are not deterred.
Trump’s plan is also clearly directed at altering the behavior of many American employers who, for decades, have viewed immigrant labor — legal, illegal, and temporary — as a cost-saving alternative to American workers. Thirty years after Congress outlawed the employment of illegal aliens, Trump’s plan would mandate the use of the E-Verify system by all employers. “This simple measure will protect jobs for unemployed Americans,” states the position paper.
American workers would also be protected from job and wage loss that results from the widespread abuse of high- and low-skill guest worker programs. The plan notes that only about half of Americans who graduate with STEM degrees can find jobs in those fields, “yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program.”
The plan also calls for a reevaluation of our dysfunctional legal immigration policies, which consistently admit more than a million people a year, with little regard for how it affects American workers or the likelihood of the immigrants to succeed here. “Before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers,” the plan argues.
Deterrence and reasonable limits on legal immigration must, of course, be backed up by a meaningful enforcement against those who violate our laws. The Trump proposal calls for tripling the number of ICE agents who seek out immigration lawbreakers where they live and work in the interior of the country. The cost of the increased enforcement would be more than offset by reductions in the estimated $100 billion a year Americans now spend to provide basic services to illegal aliens and their families.
The plan does focus on large-scale deportation for one group of illegal aliens: criminals. Though deporting criminal aliens may seem controversial to the Obama administration and lawmakers in jurisdictions that have declared themselves sanctuaries for illegal aliens, it is actually a no-brainer for most people. “All criminal aliens must be returned to their home countries,” while foreign governments that refuse to accept their return could be faced with cancelation of visas for their citizens.
There is certainly room for politicians from both parties to quibble with specific details of Trump’s immigration reform blueprint. But the basic premise of his proposal — that the policy should protect and serve the best interests of the American people by establishing meaningful deterrence and enforcement against those who break our laws — embodies the core principles of true immigration reform.