I have had the opportunity to ponder somewhat on the illegal immigration issue over the past couple of weeks. While visiting with folks in the district it appears that illegal immigration is going to be a big (if not the biggest) issue on voters minds this election season. With that in mind, I thought that now would be an appropriate time to articulate my views on immigration and what we can do as a state to deal with it.
First, throughout the history of the United States, we have had immigration to our country. Sometimes,and often, those immigrants came in such large numbers that assimilation was slow. Our founding fathers wondered if the immigrants would ever abandon their native tongues and traditions to assimilate and become full-blooded Americans. Benjamin Franklin expressed this very concern about the large number of inhabitants in Pennsylvania clinging to their German heritage. Ultimately, Pennsylvania assimilated, although over the course of several generations.
The reasons for people coming to America are many. Economic, social, and political forces abroad have made the freedom and opportunity of America an attraction to the world. Our way of life is coveted by many people of the world and they desire to come here to take advantage of what our nation has to offer.
Nevertheless, throughout the history of the Unites States, we have exercised control over the number of people that have come here. We have also had in place standards that dictate the quality of individuals seeking to immigrate. In the past, Ellis Island served as a clearinghouse for new immigrants coming across the Atlantic. Those with diseases, extremely unskilled laborers, or those deemed likely to be a burden on society were turned away at Ellis Island and sent home.
Today our immigration is processed by foreign embassies. We make exceptions for refugees and other people seeking political asylum.
Unlike the past where our immigration was primarily from mainland Europe and the British Isles the bulk of immigration today is disproportionately from nations across our southern border. The Senora Desert is an obstacle to those trying to come here but it is not as great a barrier as the Atlantic Ocean once was. Additionally, unlike the past, our process for allowing for legal immigration is now entirely unfit for the purpose. However, the desire to come here has not diminished but rather, to America’s credit, it has at the very least remained constant or even increased. Hence, our Southern border today leaks like a sieve and people come and go almost at will and unaccounted for.
The majority, I believe, of these individuals come seeking a better life for themselves with the goal of working to earn for their families.
Another layer of complication in this issue is the Federal ambivalence to enforcing its own existing laws on immigration. Although the complexity of state's rights vs. federal prerogative has not been fully explored, it is clear that the Federal government has delegated authority over immigration:
“The Congress shall have Power…To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution.
Just the same as the Utah Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over or the power to enforce Arkansas State law, the State of Utah cannot have jurisdiction over or by some unknown right enforce Federal Law. Federal Law is enforced by the Federal Government. State Law by the state government. As a Constitutional conservative, I believe in upholding and sustaining our constitution and that we must work within our Federal structure to bring about a true and lasting solution to our broken immigration system.
With that said, Utah can be a leader in the very type of reform we need to see happen at the Federal level. Therefore, I believe Utah should find its own equitable solution in the absence of Federal enforcement. Interestingly, we may see this debate unfold soon as Arizona now faces down the Department of Justice on this very issue of states rights.
So what can Utah do to support our local economy, live by the spirit of Liberty pronounced in our founding documents, and also reduce the burden that undocumented workers place on our society?
Within the federal system we live, we must encourage Utah’s representatives in Congress to propose and pass the kind of reform that is right. Utah can also build a coalition of States as State Legislatures, Governors, and those respective state’s federal delegations work towards the type of truly American reform we are so badly in need of.
As broken as our immigration system is, the Arizona approach to immigration reform appears to be unconstitutional. It is also extremely shortsighted in that it may portend the future doom of conservative values as a majority voice in politics a generation from now as our demographics change. We would have been wiser had we never allowed ourselves to come to this crossroads.
Being the party of Liberty and Republican ideals, we should be sponsoring immigration reform that:
1. Encourages the free flow of labor for the benefit of Americans and American business.
2. Allows all to come to America who are healthy, employable, productive, and not criminally minded.
3. Welcomes immigrants into our way of life.
How do we do that?
First, this coalition of states would recommend the revision of the existing quota system as it is outdated and counterproductive to the free flow of labor. The new quota system would be based on demand for foreign laborers and what our society could reasonably absorb. Quotas would be balanced between those wanting to become citizens vs. those wanting to work here only temporarily. Citizens tend to take ownership in our society while temporary workers do not.
Second, the coalition would support the creation of a new version of an Ellis Island at the main ports of entry at the Southern border. This would have significant symbolic meaning and also provide a "go to" place for individuals wanting to immigrate to the country. Individuals immigrating here must be employable, be free from disease, prove that they will not be a burden to society, and have a sponsor.
Third, this coalition would support a new Federal program for verifying that employees are documented workers. Immigration is generally not an issue for the FBI, ATF or the CIA. A new division just for ensuring compliance with immigration law would need to be created but would be an important part of protecting our population from criminals and possible terrorists. With this, I would support strict penalties for those hiring undocumented individuals as well as penalties for those undocumented workers. This is an important element currently missing in our existing law.
Fourth, we would remove all special incentives provided to immigrants such as out-of-state tuition waivers. As someone who paid out of state tuition here, I find this practice a misuse of public funds.
Fifth, those immigrants who choose not to adhere to these laws (which would accommodate the legal status of more of the immigrant community than current law) would be subject to deportation or confinement.
The purpose of these ideas would be to allow labor to travel more legitimately that it currently does while also requiring immigrants to take financial responsibility for themselves.
By creating a process for people to come here legally and through main ports of entry, it would all but eliminate the flow of illegal immigrants through our open borders. It would also allow the border to be patrolled to find those who really are dangerous, criminally minded and/or terrorists.
It is also my hope that we can strike a balance between justice that must be served and the mercy that we extend to those who come here. Perhaps by increasing justice and mercy simultaneously, we can meet the needs of our economy, unburden our schools and hospitals, and provide a way for those seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as those generations who have gone before us..