A look at the United States Immigration Policy
America has not always had an Immigration Problem. The facts are that the immigration policy as it is in 2018 has major issues that can only be resolved by the United States Congress. In my opinion the Congress should remain in session while working diligently on a Comprehensive Immigration Reform solution to the issue of illegal immigration.
The United States continues to have the most open immigration policy in the world. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that certain states began passing immigration laws, and in 1875 the Supreme Court declared the regulation of immigration a federal responsibility. In 1891 the Immigration Service was established.
The period from 1900 to 1920 was known as the “Great Wave” where nearly 24M immigrants arrived in the U.S. After WWI congress addressed the increasing immigration flow with a new immigration policy, in the form of “The National-Origins Quota System” passed in 1921 and revised in 1924. Immigration was limited by nationality quotas based upon past U.S. census figures. In 1924 Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol within the Immigration Service.
Over the next 20 years there was very little immigration and actually dropped below zero during the Depression, and during and following WWII, because the 1920s national-origins system remained in place after being re-codified by Congress and combining all immigration laws into the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. American agriculture continued to import seasonal labor from Mexico and the 1951 Bracero Program became a permanent agreement between the U.S. and Mexico.
In 1965 Congress replaced the national origins system with a preference system designed to unite immigrant families and attract skilled immigrants, changing national policy in effect since 1924. It seems that a majority of applicants for immigration visas was now coming from Asia and Latin America, rather than Europe. The preference system continued limiting the number of available immigration visas, but Congress still responded to refugees with special legislation. It was not until the Refugee Act of 1980 that the U.S. had a general policy governing the admission of refugees.
In 1986 Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) with two major facets: Amnesty and Enforcement. The IRCA amnesty required aliens to have completed one of two provisions: continually reside in the U.S. since January 1982 OR completed 90 days of agricultural work between May 1985 and May 1986. Due to the estimated fraud involved in this program, there was offered a Late Amnesty which allowed those fighting denial to reapply. The IRCA contained provisions for enforcement to prevent illegal entry. The provisions prohibited the hiring and harboring of illegal aliens, but few resources were allocated for enforcement.
The 1990 Immigration Act modified and expanded the 1965 act while retaining family reunification as the major entry path and provides for the admission of immigrants from “under-represented” countries by a lottery system and mandated a study of immigration known as the “Jordan Commission”.
The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (Jordan Commission) ran from 1990 to 1997 and covered the many facets of the immigration policy, from the perception that the immigration policy “credibility yardstick: people who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in, are kept out; and people who are judged deportable are required to leave.”
The commission issued a series of four reports: The first report cited that enforcement was lax and needed improvement on the border and internally with an “automated employment verification system” for employers to distinguish between legal and illegal workers. The second report suggested immediate family members and skilled workers receive priority. The third report covered refugee and asylum issues. The fourth report reiterated the major points of the previous reports and the need for a new immigration policy. Few of these suggestions were implemented.
In 1996 Congress passed the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). The act mandated hiring more border patrol and INS agents. Penalties for illegal entry were increased and a border fence was planned for San Diego, while an automated employment verification pilot program was created and state police officers were allowed to enforce immigration law using the 287(g) program. Poor funding again hindered enforcement.
During the 1990s four smaller amnesties were passed. The first was section 245(i) amnesty, passed in 1994 which pardoned around 578,000 illegal aliens who were each fined $1,000. This amnesty was renewed in 1997 and again in 2000. The second was the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) was passed in 1997 giving legal status to about 1M illegal aliens, mostly from Central America who had lived in the U.S. since 1995. In 1998 the Haitian Refugee Immigration and Fairness Act (HRIFA) passed to include Haitians. In 2000 the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE) a mini-amnesty aimed at those illegal aliens who hoped to become green card holders through marriage, employment and other categories who still had a long line of people ahead of them. From 1994 to 2000 there were millions of hopeful legal immigrants waiting in line overseas.
After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 perspectives on many issues changed including immigration. The attack exposed long-standing holes in our immigration system, including visa processing, internal enforcement and information sharing.
In 2006 immigration reform was again discussed in Congress with both houses producing their own conflicting bills. In December 2005 the House passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 and was limited to enforcement on both the border and the interior. In May 2006 the Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA) that would have given amnesty to a majority of illegal aliens already in the country as well as dramatically increased legal immigration. No compromise bill resulted.
In 2007 the Senate attempted to pass amnesty legislation in the form of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which would have given amnesty to a large majority of illegal entrants in the country and significantly increased legal immigration and increased enforcement. Although the act had bipartisan support in the Senate it lacked public support and failed to obtain a passing closure vote.
In 2012 President Obama became tired of waiting on Congress and unconstitutionally used the power of Executive Order to create the Delayed Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to allow a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who are residing within the U.S. Congress neither condemned this action by the president, nor did they then attempt to fix the problems with the immigration system.
So here we are in 2018 and the Trump administration has decided to secure the U.S. southern border by building a physical barrier wall and enforce immigration laws to prevent unlawful entry and conduct deportation hearings to remove illegal immigrants.
What is not being questioned is the fact that Mexico and her southern neighbors have not addressed or offering (as required by international law) asylum or refugee status to those who have been given a “pass” and facilitated to the U.S. – Mexico border.
What we are seeing played out in the media are vocal opposition to immigration enforcement by the very politicians who have had the power to correct through immigration reform and are instrumental in creating the situation we now face along our southern border.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Border Patrol are charged with enforcement of existing laws. The process becomes complicated when someone with a law degree becomes involved and crosses over into Mexico to “coach” amnesty seekers on how to respond to immigration judges at the border. Those individuals face disbarment and criminal action for facilitating the circumventing of U.S. immigration laws.
The big cry is “separation of families” at the border. There would be no separation when families choose between separations versus unlawful entry – just make the right choice.
The introduction today of “Emergency Legislation” as proposed by Senator Ted Cruz that casts a glimmer of hope for immigrant families. – Double the number of Federal Immigration Judges from 375 to 750; Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together; Mandate illegal immigrant families “Must Be Kept Together”, absent aggravated criminal conduct or harm to the children; & Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that – within 14 days – those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.
(I would hope that grandfathering in those families currently in the system at the border.)
The sin is not separation, but unlawful conduct which leads to separation. – I am the Real Truckmaster!