The issue of immigration is one that shows little signs of going away. There is widespread disagreement both about what level of legal immigration is desirable and about what should be done regarding those immigrants who have and are entering the country illegally. The large number of immigrants coming from Mexico has made Mexican immigrants the primary focus of the debate. What should be done to address this issue?
While I support amnesty and the DREAM Act, I believe that additional steps must be taken to fully address the issue of immigration. In the first place, the naturalization process must become streamlined. One of the major reasons so many people come here illegally is that immigrating legally can take an incredibly long amount of time. The Salt Lake City-based newspaper, Deseret News, documents the case of a Columbian immigrant named Ruth Ceballos who, “after a decade of wading through government red tape, she finally won a visa. The trouble was, Ceballos had been trying to get a visa for so long that her three children had grown into adults during her decade-long wait, meaning that because they were no longer minors, they would not qualify to immigrate with her and her husband.” So one part of reforming immigration policy is cutting through the red tape, eliminating immigration quotas, and allowing all immigrants who pass medical and criminal background checks to quickly enter the United States, become citizens, and stay here if they so choose. While it is sometimes argued that the United States has no obligation to admit immigrants, I would argue that this is a problematic assertion to make when one considers the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, it has not been a very long time since whites themselves arrived here and dispossessed the Native Americans. The idea that people of European descent can show up, seize a country from its inhabitants and then, in a fairly short period of time, lock the gates behind them, is fallacious. Let us wait at least a few more centuries before asserting such a claim on this country.
The second step is to understand that the idea that legions of immigrants cross the Mexican border for welfare and other public assistance programs fails to hold water. If this idea were correct, we should have expected to see the number of illegal immigrants decline after the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. This piece of legislation placed stricter limits on the ability of people in the United States to receive welfare payments and is rightly trumpeted both by many Democrats and by many Republicans as cutting down on abuse of the welfare system. According to CBSNews.com, “In all, the biggest surge of immigration in modern U.S. history ultimately may be recorded as having occurred in the mid-1990s-to-early-2000s, yielding illegal residents who now have been settled in the U.S. for 10 years or more.” So in other words, right around the time that it became harder to sit back and rely on welfare instead of getting a job, more immigrants started coming here.
The third step is to understand that states like California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona which have high rates of illegal immigration were originally Mexican territory, and Mexico did not voluntarily relinquish them. In the case of Texas, white immigrants who had moved to what was then the Texas Territory launched a rebellion against the government, in no small part due to a desire to protect the enslavement of blacks. California, New Mexico, and Arizona were plundered by the United States in the Mexican War, a war that happened largely because the United States baited Mexico into it. After the war, individual Mexicans who lived in these areas were defrauded of their property. The gold of California and the oil of Texas put vast amounts of money into the hands of the United States rather than Mexico. If Congress does not follow my recommendations for streamlining the immigration process in general, I am proposing that the equivalent of the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act be passed for Mexican immigrants. According to FactCheck.org, “The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 gives Cubans a right to become legal permanent residents once they have reached the U.S. and have been here for one year, provided that the U.S. Attorney General doesn’t object.” Just as the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act is a good form of restitution by the United States for supporting the Batista dictatorship and thereby paving the way for Castro to take power, giving Mexican immigrants the same legal considerations that Cuban immigrants receive would be a good form of restitution for the theft of Mexican land.