April 21, 2021
A big problem is looming for President Biden and the Democrats—immigration. If we don’t get this resolved, 2022 and 24 are at risk.
Republicans are again inflaming distrust for immigrants. Fox News spends a highly disproportionate amount of screen time crying about the “humanitarian crisis at the border.” They focus on poor handling of the influx—beds, medical care, childcare, etc. They focus on the sheer numbers, implying we are allowing far too many in. They find rare instances of child abuse or criminal entry and exaggerate these, no matter how rare. Fox shows no empathy for the plight of those risking their lives to escape hardship and danger just to swim the Rio Grande, usually penniless.
We are a country of 330 million people, all immigrants or children of. Today 86 million are either first-or second-generation immigrants. We have built our great country in short centuries on the talents and hard work of immigrants. This seems forgotten as others seek to join us—most of them wanting only to work, provide for their families, pay taxes, and obey our laws. Many of those without skills serve a great need of doing all manner of menial work that many Americans have decided is beneath them.
We have fought, denigrated, lynched, killed, and punished immigrants across our bloody history—after we did the same to the natives of this land. Trump seized on an accumulated history of widespread US concern for immigration and distrust of immigrants and made this his signature campaign promise. He denigrated certain populations of immigrants—Mexicans (“drug dealers, rapists, criminals”), Muslims, Chinese, etc. He stoked negative attitudes toward immigrants in general.
There was no Trump administration attempt to define how many immigrants we could accommodate, or how we might expand our system such as to accommodate more. There was no empathy extended to those in distress who may be in far worse shape than even our own poor, in terms of lack of food, jobs, or criminal danger.
The Biden administration started with a “humanitarian” point of view. That’s Great! But they need much more—a plan, management, and communication. If immigration is not managed right, Democrats are in big trouble.
I’m no expert on immigration. I don’t pretend to fully understand all the complicated policies, jurisdictions, agencies, laws, etc., etc., that make our immigration process so very challenging to all outside our borders who seek to join us here. But it must be clear to all that the process is way too cumbersome, very inefficient in achieving its aims—for those simply legally seeking to come, and especially all those who flee danger and hardship in their home countries.
Altogether, our complex system has been allowing about 1 million new immigrants (legally) annually. We can double it, and grow it for years, to the great benefit of the nation.
I venture to recommend the following steps to our new Administration:
First—establish a bold overall objective—something like this:
“We will take in as many immigrants as we can, and continuously work aggressively to expand our capacity.”
There are many factors determining limits—beds, facilities, care workers of various skills, food and other necessities, educational resources, etc., etc., but there are also emotional or psychological limits—fears and concerns, real or imagined, in various communities, which must be considered. Democrats join Republicans in having limits. We can’t take all of the reportedly 65 million abroad who want to come here—as least not immediately. Republicans know Democrats do not want open borders, but they keep falsely politicizing with that rhetoric. We can’t take everyone, but we can take many more than we have been taking.
To aggressively expand our capacities:
- Calculate the capacity of the system at this time
- Implement immediate emergency expansions, albeit less than ideal, for those already in and above capacity—includes best possible—tents, etc. This to deal humanely with the existing border crisis
- Immediately enforce strict limits at the border to allow only what the system can accommodate, as the system expands
- Immediately examine all reasonable expansion alternatives
- Create detailed timeline for expansion, begin expansion immediately
- Continue to work with immigrant nations to hold and protect refugees in home countries until US can accommodate
- Government can provide incentives to employers and communities which are able to integrate and sponsor numbers of immigrants
- Streamline, shorten and simplify the process of legal immigration
- Where any jobs are lost to Americans, provide assistance to those impacted
- Provide extensive data to the public on the cost of accommodating immigrants, how many are working, how many are paying taxes, and the net economic contribution of immigrant population
- Create a short path to citizenship for the 11 million here working, obeying laws, and paying taxes
I am confident the bottom line of immigrant value to the US is highly positive, measured in net economic contribution (after recovering all the costs of entry), and measured in terms of the cultural, artistic, and sociological value to us.
If the Biden Administration boldly sets forth an agenda like this—rapid expansion of immigrant intake coupled with best control of the border—better than under Trump, we can turn a crisis into a humanitarian and an economic success.
For an immensely superior study of the problems of US immigration (and solutions), please obtain a copy of the excellent book written by my friend Linda Dakin-Grimm, “Dignity and Justice.”