GOP Needs a Rethink on Immigration
Shift the tone.


Mark Krikorian

Then there’s what might be considered the policy we have now — an anti-immigrant policy of mass immigration, one that admits lots of people but makes sure they don’t get too comfortable. Among the most notable anti-immigrant elements of our policy are the growth in guestworker programs — which are little more than indentured servitude — and the unwillingness to fund immigration-processing services adequately, leading to inordinately high fees, long waits, and all-too-frequent snafus.

The final option is the one most Americans (of whatever party) intuitively support — a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration, one that seeks a smaller number of future admissions but extends a warmer welcome to those admitted.

Ironically, such reductions in immigration could actually drain away some of the venom from the immigration debate by allowing a more relaxed approach to those immigrants we do let in. For instance, something called “cancellation of removal” can be used by a judge to allow a legal immigrant to stay despite a deportation order, because of hardship to his family. Because of mass immigration, causing the system to be a sieve, Congress raised the bar in 1996, from “extreme hardship” to “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.” A lower level of immigration, allowing us to reestablish control, would permit Congress to trim back a couple of adjectives, because the problem wouldn’t be as acute. The same could apply to other areas, such as welfare eligibility, where tough standards are required in the face of massive numbers, but more flexibility is possible when the tide ebbs.

Thus a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration can serve two purposes — it puts the illegal immigration question into a larger context, providing more than simply a gut-level opposition to amnesty. And it can allow a more flexible and less punitive approach to management of immigrants already here, making a policy that will necessarily involve a certain degree of sternness be somewhat less severe.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO contributor. He is author of The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal.