Critics of immigration reform call for securing our borders first, but with effective reform, securing our borders on the basis of immigration isn’t necessary.
Rather than a comprehensive approach, I prefer a step-by-step approach to reform with an emphasis on “risk verse reward”…or as we like to call it in the field of behavior modification…“Principles of Behavior”. Our solutions should be incentive based.
First let’s analyse what is driving current behavior. What is the incentive to bypass the legal immigration process? As we know, the current system is extremely convoluted and expensive. It takes far too long and is rife with unintended consequences.
For example, a friend and former co-worker of mine from Brazil had spent years and thousands of dollars working through the system. When he was approached with an outstanding job opportunity with a different company, he was faced with the decision of turning down the offer or starting the immigration process all over again. In the end, he felt like it was just too much time and money to throw away. He was left stuck, extremely frustrated, and he lost out on a great opportunity to advance his career.
The first step in effective reform must be simplifying the legal immigration process. This is likely the most difficult step, but a legal immigration process that is affordable, timely, and efficient serves as an incentive rather than a deterrent.
The next question is what becomes of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in our country? Critics decry amnesty, but deportation is not a realistic option and neither is tearing families apart over a misdemeanor. Continuing to ignore their presence has proven to be a mistake. The people screaming, “No Amnesty” are the very same people upset about footing the bill. It’s a consequence of refusing participation in the system.
The only realistic option is to offer a pathway to citizenship. Not granting instant citizenship, but allowing undocumented immigrants to self-report and enter the now simplified legal immigration process just like everyone else. Providing a temporary work or school visa allows families to stay together while they work through the immigration process. Paying taxes, obtaining insurance and healthcare, and legally participating in the system helps to empower these hard working families and encourages them to buy into the American Dream. Being welcomed and becoming part of the system provides the incentive to assimilate and proudly view oneself as American.
The next step, indexing visas to meet the economic demand of the country. As a country that has thrived on capitalism, it only makes sense to allow legal immigration to meet the labor demands of American businesses. When these businesses are allowed to thrive, so does our country. They create more jobs and provide more revenue.
The final step is much easier. Effectively implementing E-Verify measures by cracking down on employers with strict penalties. The incentive for employers to seek cheaper labor is a reality we must face. It is an unintended consequence of government interference in the market with the implementation of minimum-wage laws. Indexing visas to ensure labor supply meets demand is a good start, but until the risk outweighs the reward, don’t expect employers to voluntarily comply with the law. Once employers do comply, the lack of job opportunities available to undocumented immigrants serve as an incentive to self-report and enter the now much simpler legal pathway to citizenship.
Finally, to be clear on securing our borders. I do favor securing BOTH of our borders, but on the grounds of national security, not immigration. Without the incentive for illegal immigration, securing our borders is not necessary. The only people who would be interested in sneaking across our borders would be the people who mean us harm. Thus…it’s an issue of national security.
"Under today’s immigration rules, very few of our ancestors would have been able to immigrate here legally." - CATO Institute