FLORIDA, March 29, 2012 — It goes without saying that illegal immigration is a political lightning rod. What is the most effective method of handling it?
Speaking of illegal immigration, what role does it play in our national security? Many political forecasters say that the future of the American center-right belongs to libertarians; specifically those of the Ron Paul variety. Would U.S. immigration policy fare well under strong libertarian influence?
Despite the federal government’s numerous attempts to stimulate the economy, America remains in a slump. Is our current immigration policy is somewhat to blame for this?
In this second part of our discussion, Temple University law professor Jan C. Ting answers these challenging questions. A former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware and a senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, he served as Assistant Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under George H.W. Bush.
He also tells us a bit about his life and career.
Joseph F. Cotto: Illegal immigration, needless to say, is a political lightning rod. What would you say is the most effective manner of handling it?
Jan C. Ting: We have to confront the basic choice which we have been studiously and deliberately avoiding: Do we want to enforce a numerical limit on immigration or not?
Enforcing a numerical limit is hard. It requires a never-ending discussion over what the limit should be, and who should have priority to claim the visas within the limit. It also requires us to turn away immigrants who remind us of our own ancestors, not because they’re bad people, but simply because admitting them would exceed our limit.
If we can’t do that, we should repeal immigration laws and invite everyone in the world to move here. Immigrant criminals and national security risks should be the responsibility of the FBI. We can save billions of taxpayer dollars now spent on immigration enforcement.
Cotto: What role does illegal immigration play in our national security?
Ting: Protecting national security amounts to looking for needles in a haystack. The work becomes more difficult if the haystack is larger. Restricting immigration generally, and illegal immigration in particular, limits growth in the haystack, and supports protection of national security.
Cotto: Many political forecasters say that the future of the American center-right belongs to libertarians; specifically those of the Ron Paul variety. From your perspective, would U.S. immigration policy fare well under strong libertarian influence?
Ting: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made a clear statement of libertarian policy on March 19 before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce when he said, “If you want to come to the U.S. to live and work, we will find a place for you.”
While I don’t support that view, I do believe it is an intellectually coherent and defensible position, much preferable to President Obama’s “third way” of keeping immigration limits on the books, but not enforcing them, and then giving amnesty to all the immigration violators whenever they reach critical mass, while still paying for immigration enforcement. Libertarian immigration policy would be an experiment in which I don’t think we should participate. We should not bet the republic that the results will be good. I suspect the results would be a disaster and the end of the American experiment.
Cotto: Despite the federal government’s numerous attempts to stimulate the economy, America remains in a slump. Do you believe that our current immigration policy is somewhat to blame for this?
Ting: Yes. The irony of millions of Americans looking for work but unable to find any while Congress considers legalizing millions of foreigners who will then be able to compete with Americans for jobs, should be apparent to everyone. The goal of immigration policy should be what is in the best interests of the American people as a whole. I would recommend limiting immigration to spouses and minor children of citizens, plus additional immigrants chosen for special skills needed in the U.S.
Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering how you came to be such a prominent voice in America’s immigration debate. Tell us a bit about your life and career.
Ting: Both my parents were immigrants, as were many of their friends, the parents of the children with whom I grew up. Of course I respect and admire immigrants and their undeniable contributions to America, as we all should. But that’s not the question. The question is: how many?
Only those who have worked for the government in trying to enforce our immigration limits fully appreciate how difficult and expensive that is to do. It’s not worth doing unless the American people want us to do it. If they don’t, we should repeal the limits and let everyone in. I served as Assistant Commissioner at the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 1993. I have been teaching Citizenship and Immigration Law at Temple University Beasley School of Law since then.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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