To Reform Immigration, Legal and Illegal
From the August 15, 2011, issue of NR


Mark Krikorian

The upgraded package would reduce future legal admissions to about 700,000 per year.

The premium package includes everything from the first two, ends birthright citizenship, and reduces the number of immigrants entering the country on skilled-worker or refugee/asylum grounds.

Each year, some 300,000 children are born to illegal-alien mothers, acquiring U.S. citizenship at birth. In addition, thousands more come here on temporary visas to give birth, then depart once they receive their children’s U.S. birth certificates and passports. It’s a matter of debate whether the 14th Amendment to the Constitution actually grants citizenship for children born to illegals or tourists, and thus whether changing our citizenship rules must be done through legislation or constitutional amendment. But it should be done in either case.

The first two packages have already addressed the biggest problems with the legal immigration flow — its slide into nepotism through chain migration. This premium version focuses on two other immigrant categories: skills-based immigrants and those seeking refugee/asylum admissions. Each of these broad groups comprises roughly 150,000 immigrants per year and should be radically reduced — my preference would be to cut them by two-thirds, to 50,000. The wailing and gnashing of teeth from business lobbyists about skilled foreigners turned away from the golden door is baloney; while the skills category does enable the immigration of some truly exceptional workers, research shows that it admits large numbers of average workers who appeal to employers mainly as cheap labor. Something similar is true of the refugee/asylum category — some who qualify for it truly have no other option, but most use it simply as an alternative means to move here for work or to join relatives. Sharpening the focus of both these categories will not undermine their purposes, but will result in lower numbers of immigrants.

The premium package would lead to a legal immigration flow of about half a million per year, much less than today’s level but still higher than the historical average over the past two centuries.

None of these packages encompasses every element of immigration reform. Unaddressed concerns include temporary workers, dual citizenship, and the State Department’s continued role in issuing visas. But these three packages will, I hope, help both candidates and voters think through some of the most important aspects of this vital issue.

— Mr. Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. This article originally appeared in the August 15, 2011, issue of National Review.


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