Before the COVID-19 pandemic, police reform and civil unrest captured voters’ attention, the nation was in a longstanding debate about how to reform our immigration system. On one extreme, we have some who want to open up our borders to everyone, and on the other, we have those who want to stop all foreigners from coming here.
Neither position makes any sense to us. The U.S. birth rate is barely at replacement levels. In order to grow the economy, this nation needs more people than we have been willing to raise on our own.
For at least the past 40 years, immigration laws that are on the books have been poorly enforced. Some people come here on visas and don’t go home when their visas expire. Our southern border with Mexico has been a sieve, allowing not only millions of people to cross illegally, not to mention the issue of illegal drugs passing through ports of entry every day. In just the last few years, the southern border has been so overwhelmed that detention facilities overflowed. That’s totally unacceptable, and yet the Congress has been unable to come up with solutions.
In addition, many small children were separated from their parents as a deterrent, causing lasting trauma to the little ones. We need to listen to our better angels, make family unification a priority in any reform effort and protect family reunification laws already on the books.
Because of congressional inaction as well as neglect by multiple presidential administrations, over time, this has created an underclass of people, non-citizens, who live under the threat of deportation and thereby are subject to blackmail, extortion, and most horrifically, sex slavery.
This, in turn, has led to local units of government becoming so-called “sanctuary cities,” whereby they refuse to work with the federal government to enforce immigration law.
Since the problem has gone unaddressed for so long, we now have another group of people, called “Dreamers” under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, who came here as children of undocumented immigrants and have never experienced life anywhere but in the United States. It would be immoral to send them to a foreign country, when America is the only society they have known.
It is estimated that at least 10 million people are in the United States illegally. The United States needs to secure its borders, but in a way that recognizes the immigration problem was caused by 40 years of neglect. While non-citizens involved in criminal activities should be deported, we need to recognize that the vast majority of people who want to come to the United States simply want a better life.
We need to set an annual immigration level based not only on the level of unemployment in our economy, but also on the skill sets most in need, and to recognize the deep cultural benefit we all enjoy by embracing those who want to start a new life here. Then we need to give those people already here who have been otherwise law-abiding a path to legal status and ultimately to citizenship.
In discussions with Minnesota congressional candidates for the upcoming election, we urge voters to ask candidates where they stand on the various aspects of immigration policy. We think clear differences will emerge that will help voters in their decisions.
We believe the lax enforcement of immigration laws and the failure by Congress to find any kind of remedy is undermining respect for the rule of law. When voters go to the polls in November, they need to consider immigration issues as much as ever. Just because other events have pushed the issue off the front pages, federal inaction means the problem remains as serious as ever.
— Editorial opinion from the Adams Publishing/ECM Editorial Board. Reactions are welcome. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.