A look at immigration reform

The New York Times Aug. 13 front page highlighted the plight of a Mexican mother who came with her family illegally at age 14. Ironically, now she and her U.S. born, 7th-grade son are forced to “self deport,” to reunite with father and husband. The father broke the law by forging a social security card so he could work and provide for his family.

The family spent a decade in agricultural small town, Hampton, Iowa, blending into the community that credits the Latino population with helping to revive downtown economics. The father played baseball with the Liga Latina de Beisbol in Minneapolis and their son “breathed baseball.” The community is divided about their Latino neighbors but their new Sheriff now shares illegal immigrant information with immigration officials (ICE). The only way to reunite the family is to return to Veracruz where gangs slaughter rivals and civilians alike.

As an undergraduate, I took an Immigration course and was surprised to learn the U.S. has a history of limitations and discrimination in its immigration policies:  Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, exclusion of unaccompanied children 1907, limits of European immigrants and national quotas 1921 (quotas per country have evolved to today), Oriental Exclusion Act 1924.

In the book “In the Garden of Beasts,” the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin in 1932 asked his superiors in Washington why Germany’s quota for the year had not been filled with persecuted German Jews clamoring to immigrate to U.S. and never received an answer. Stats show German immigration during 1921-30 at 412,202 and 1931-40 at 114,058.

In February, Andy Semotiuk, a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, Forbes, reports Senators Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Perdue (R-Georgia), proposed a bill that would drastically lower the amount of legal immigrants coming into the U.S. from one million per year to just 540,000. The president and the drafters of the bill attempt to justify this proposed RAISE Act by stating, it takes inspiration from the Canadian  points-based immigration system. 

The RAISE family immigration category has the majority of the decline. Currently, there is a cap of 480,000 immediate family members coming in under the family sponsored immigration. The RAISE Act would lower this to 88,000. Canada allowed 65,490 family immigrants in 2015. The U.S. has around ten times as many people as Canada, so in proportion to its population, the U.S. would let in a tenth of the family members each year compared to Canada.

The U.S. is now proposing RAISE restrict immigration to just nuclear families excluding parents of the nuclear family and grandparents, Canada is proposing to double parents and grandparents who receive permanent resident status in Canada and are responsible for paying their own living expenses.

RAISE proposes changes to the definition of what counts as a minor child, from under 21 years of age to under 18. Canada has moved in the opposite direction. Effective October 2017, the age limit for Canada will be younger than 22 years of age, as opposed to the earlier under 19 making it easier for whole families to immigrate. Since the 1960s, the US immigration system has largely based entry on family ties, giving preference to those with relatives who are citizens.

Immigration and labor experts are skeptical of RAISE proposals that actually cut immigrant numbers. Tamar Jacoby, a Republican, who supports immigration reform and president of ImmigrationWorks USA said, “It’s not my first concern that they’re going to bring too many computer programmers. It’s that they’re not going to bring enough of other different kinds of workers that we need.”

Canada’s immigration system has been orderly and precise for decades and evaluates immigrants on an economically-focused nine-point rubric that ignores their race, religion and ethnicity, focusing on their age, education, job skills, language ability and other merit-based qualities.

Recent polls reveal that 82 percent of Canadians think immigration is good for the economy, and two-thirds said multiculturalism represents one of Canada’s best features — they even rank it higher than hockey.

ln Montreal, a new surge of hundreds, mostly Haitian migrants, have illegally crossed into Quebec via upstate New York. Many are American children accompanying their undocumented parents. In May, the Trump administration announced plans to end a humanitarian program, Temporary Protected Status, which would allow 58,000 Haitians to remain in the US after the devastating 2010 earthquake. 

This “current debate” over immigration in the U.S. has been on going for years with no resolution. And now we have the draconian repeal of DACA (Dreamers), a group who has statistically shown to be a successful immigration population. So little time is spent understanding why people cross borders. To solve our immigration problem, we must understand the reasons forcing individuals/families to leave home. It is often to avoid being killed.

Simply increasing border security will not stop people from coming here so long as they have family members or employers who want or need them. I believe reworking the means for legal immigration represents a better solution to the broken immigration system we now have rather than costly walls, border patrol agents and equipment at the border.

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