Immigrating to America Is Not an Entitlement

As the drumbeat for comprehensive immigration reform grows louder, the related public debate has not become any more edifying.  Self-serving Democrats, delusional Republicans, and shameless illegal aliens (who prefer to call themselves “immigration rights activists”) insist that legalizing some 11 million illegal immigrants in this country is the right thing to do and label those who disagree as anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic.

Amid the finger pointing and political intimidation, some fundamentally flawed assertions have repeatedly surfaced. Below is some common sense that highlights the absurdity of the faulty assumptions.

Immigrating to the United States is a privilege, not a right. It certainly is not an entitlement program.

Proponents of comprehensive immigration reform like to emphasize that America’s immigration system is broken, and they are right. Yet they often justify illegal immigration by pointing out that even if aspiring immigrants wanted to get in line for legal immigration, many do not have a line to get into -- because they do not have relatives in this country with whom to reunite or they cannot qualify for a limited number of visa categories (such as those for work, education, or investment).

Few acknowledge that in life, reality is by nature more unpleasant than our most fervent wishes. Just because people really, really want to come to the United States does not mean they have the right to do so.

By numerous measures, America’s tax system is broken as well, and supporters of limited government resent the fact that their tax dollars are extracted to fund a bloated welfare state they despise. Nevertheless, these individuals continue to pay their taxes. Similarly, those who wish to move to America should not be excused from respecting this country’s laws.

Certainly, changes to the existing system should be made. For instance, proposals to increase the flow of high-skilled labor make perfect sense. But America’s broken immigration system is not a justification for illegals to walk across the border or overstay their visas.

Do not let anyone obfuscate the difference between legal and illegal immigration. Denouncing the latter does not mean being hostile to the former.

This country has a legal immigration process in place. It is by no means perfect and imposes cumbersome restrictions. Nevertheless, that process is the law of the land. Numerous individuals from around the world follow it out of respect for the rule of law and for the country they wish to adopt as their new home. They make huge sacrifices, incur heavy financial costs, and wait patiently. Husbands are separated from their wives for years; siblings wait over a decade to be reunited; and high-skilled laborers whose visas are not renewed end up returning to their home countries. Reform efforts to ease the restrictions for these legal applicants are sensible, but amnesty for those who have violated U.S. immigration laws not only rewards bad behavior; it dishonors and dismisses the persistence and sacrifice of legal immigrants.

No matter how politicians spin it, offering provisional legal status to illegals is rewarding them with amnesty.

The right to live and work in the United States is a precious commodity. It is also precisely what the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight proposes to offer to illegal aliens who are already here. Although these individuals must wait ten years to apply for a green card and 13 to apply for citizenship, they would be eligible for provisional legal status almost immediately.

To be sure, these illegal immigrants would have to pay a fine, pay taxes, and not have a serious criminal record before they qualify for provisional legal status, but these conditions hardly amount to a stiff punishment for lawbreaking behavior. In fact, they form the baseline of what America demands from immigrants who seek to enter this country legally.

More importantly, legal status in America -- even if short of a green card or citizenship -- is a status coveted by millions around the world. Impoverished men and women in sub-Saharan Africa, unemployed or under-employed college graduates in China or India, political and religious dissidents who are persecuted by authoritarian governments from Tehran to Moscow, or even scientists from Canada or Europe would gladly accept provisional legal status TODAY if it were offered to them. Numerous legal immigration applicants who are currently standing in line would do the same, especially since many have waited and will continue to wait for years.

But it is America’s existing illegal immigrants who will receive preference for the right to live and work in the United States.

Offering a pathway to citizenship to illegal aliens who arrived in America when they were young only strengthens the incentives for more illegal immigration.

Republicans and Democrats have been falling all over themselves to offer a pathway to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who are known as Dreamers. According to President Barack Obama, these are “young Americans in all but name.” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has written that these are “children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country.” Thanks to Obama, these young illegals have now received a two-year reprieve and a chance to apply for work permits, assuming they have no criminal records, are successful in school, or have served in the military. The Senate’s Gang of Eight has proposed offering Dreamers a fast track to citizenship, which begins with a five-year path to a green card.

Before politicians on both sides of the aisle gush about their effort to create new Americans, let’s not forget that in the immigration experience, children are not just innocent bystanders of an illegal act. Rather, they are often the primary reason for a family to leave one life to seek another in a foreign land. They are the impetus for adults to work at sub-minimum-wage jobs and the reward for a family’s hard work and shared sacrifice. It is for their brighter future that immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- fight. By rushing to give them amnesty, Congress would be strengthening, not weakening, the incentives for illegal immigration.

Moreover, the absurdity of this mad rush to amnesty would only be compounded by the even more absurd minimal requirement that such young illegals have attended school and will continue to do so. Getting an education in America, just like living and working here, is a privilege sought by millions around the world. Unlike joining the military, going to school is not a sacrifice that requires fighting and dying for America. It is not even a social service that young illegals have somehow provided for their adopted home and for which they now deserve a reward.

If the U.S. immigration policy is meant to be a vehicle of American altruism, there are more qualified recipients than the citizens of Mexico.

Amnesty proponents like to harp on the heart-wrenching personal stories of illegal immigrants who leave destitution and desperation in their home country to seek a new life in America. Some have even suggested that rejecting such immigrants would be un-American. If poverty and tragedy were to serve as the core criteria for which America should expand its legal immigration flow (and this is a debate policymakers need to have), there are many more individuals around the world who would be more deserving of legal status in America than many of those who are currently here illegally.

At the moment, a majority of the illegal immigrants in America are Hispanic and most of them hail from Mexico. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, unauthorized immigrants from Mexico made up 58 percent of America’s illegal immigrant population in 2010. Yet however touching their stories or however painful their journeys, illegal immigrants from Mexico are not the only ones who harbor aspirations for a life in America; they are not even most in need of it.

While the World Bank reports gross national income (GNI) per capita for the world’s least developed countries (such as Myanmar, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Tanzania) as $748 in 2011, the GNI per capita for Latin America and Caribbean countries was $8,575 for the same year. It is to this latter, richer set of countries that Mexico belongs. If charity were a key goal of U.S. immigration policy, why not expand immigration privileges to citizens of the world’s poorest countries (including some that are south of the border)? Citizens from these countries lack the ability to just walk across America’s southern border, but their plight is in many ways far more wretched. No doubt they would gladly immigrate to the United States for provisional legal status and work hard for the American Dream.

The media has now taken to raving regularly about illegal Hispanic high school students who earn 4.0 plus GPAs, but does a boy suffering from starvation in Senegal or a girl suffering from malnutrition in Uganda deserve less of Americans’ sympathy or less of a chance to have a home and an education in the United States? Certainly, Americans do not believe that such children are any less capable of earning a 4.0 GPA.

Just because you’re illegal does not make you inhuman, but it does mean that you are a lawbreaker who should face the risk of deportation.

Americans do not have the heart or the resources to deport all 11 million plus illegal immigrants who live in this country, especially since almost two-thirds of them have lived here for over a decade and nearly half are parents of minor children. But reasonable Americans have the right to ask why their government has failed to enforce immigration laws in decades past and why it now continues that failure by refusing to arrest and deport those who flagrantly flaunt their illegal status in public.

Already, the Obama administration prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, under most circumstances, from carrying out two crucial elements of the country’s immigration laws: 1) apprehending persons solely for entering the United States illegally, and 2) apprehending persons for overstaying their visas in the United States. As such, illegal immigrants in America not only receive de facto amnesty, they proudly call themselves “immigration rights activists” and grant interviews to the New York Times, testify before Congress, openly protest on the streets, and otherwise brazenly spit in the face of America’s rule of law -- and face no legal consequences. It is no surprise that America’s immigration system is broken and continues to provide incentives for more illegal immigration.