Immigrants built this country (even when they weren’t welcomed) and they’re still a vital part of it. Neither closing our borders to all nor opening them to all are sustainable options. We must manage immigration fairly and securely. While much of the current discussion of immigration reform focuses on “undocumented workers” I’ll talk about the legal immigration process first. It’s complicated and probably unnecessarily so. Let’s rebuild it to be simpler, fairer, and more in line with what you’d find in other developed nations. I’ll start with four principles:
- The US government’s obligation to protect it’s citizens from foreign criminals is absolute.
- “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – President John F. Kennedy.
- E Pluribus Unum. It’s Latin for the “great melting pot”.
- US citizenship is a commodity of value that cannot be stolen or won.
Anyone applying for permanent or long term residency must undergo a medical exam to ensure that they won’t present a risk to public health and a background check for criminal or terrorist activity. Convictions for crimes that are felonies in the US, violent misdemeanors, multiple DUI convictions that show a disregard for life, participation in genocide, and known association with a criminal or terrorist organization are automatically disqualifying (see #1 above). An individual with a lengthy record of petty crime that suggests that person just wants a criminal career might also be disqualified.
No nation on earth invites people in to be on welfare. Some countries require visitors to have booked their passage out before they’re allowed in. Immigrants are expected to have some training or skill to be able to obtain employment (see #2 above). This doesn’t apply to student visas if the students are financially supported from their home nation.
Some countries, including Canada, use a merit-based immigration system. Applicants are awarded points for education, job skills, professional licenses, speaking the language, etc. and they must meet a threshold to be admitted. Criminals are kept out. Canada’s immigration is so strict that visitors (not immigrants) who have a prior DUI conviction cannot drive in the country. That’s protecting a nation’s citizens.
Applicants for citizenship must pass a civics exam and they must learn English. Learning English doesn’t mean reading “See Spot run”; it means being able to conduct typical life activities like opening a bank account, visiting a doctor, voting, or reporting an emergency to 911. A common language unifies a nation (see #3 above).
Those on student visas are expected to be enrolled for the full academic year. Universities will be required to report any foreign students who fail to register for a regular term. The US also reserves the right to deny student visas to residents of nations deemed hostile to this country.
The “Diversity Lottery” should be ended. We shouldn’t be handing out 50K permanent resident visas to random people who may not even be able to support themselves.
Refugee status isn’t supposed to be permanent. Refugees should return to their home nation as soon as whatever situation they were fleeing (often a civil war) ends.
Now let’s look at how we can make it easiest for immigrants. The laws are complicated and waiting times long. Some are loaded with travel restrictions and time limits. Some keep families separated for no apparent reason. Every one of them needs to be examined and, if they are arbitrary or outdated rules that provide no real benefit to anyone, eliminated. Implement a merit-based applicant screening system to create a system that’s both fair and secure. The only ones who profit from this current legal maze are immigration lawyers.