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Who is Responsible for the State of our Immigration Problems?

September 2, 2015

 

Immigration Challenges and Solutions

 

Let’s get real – we are not the exceptional nation we once were when the U.S. was built by immigrants who worked for the sake of money, to support a family, to gain pride and self-respect, and to give back to the country that gave it so much – that welcomed them with open arms.

 

Ronald Regan famously said: “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere."

 

I believe that’s true. This is why we must find a solution and fast to the immigration problem. Most immigrants want to work; to contribute; and certainly to support their family whether back in Mexico, elsewhere, or in the U.S. The problem is we do not have a system set up to help them achieve their American dream. Many go to work in the fields; others do work most Americans wouldn't’ want to; still others hang around street corners waiting to be picked up for day labor. Yes, there are criminal elements as well – drug smugglers, abusers of children, and felons.

 

So, what’s the answer? I do agree that we need to secure the borders first and foremost. Any country that can’t keep track of its immigrants has problems much bigger than whether to send 30 million back to where they came, the number Donald Trump uses. Any country that grants visas and then doesn’t check to see whether the recipients have left when the visa runs out needs a new system of tracking. It’s unbelievable to me this happens in 2015. Why does it happen? Unfortunately, I believe the answer is indifference and incompetence, a deadly combination that infects other segments of society as well.

 

Don't get me wrong. Immigrants share the responsibility with the government. They have a responsibility to play by our rules. This country is providing them a lot more than any other country would in a similar situation. Just look at Hungary that is so overburdened with immigrants from the Middle East that it suspended EU rules on accepting refugees.

 

Our “leaders,” and I use the term advisedly, have to summon up the will to do what it takes to create an orderly immigration system, which includes sending criminals back home on their first felony, not their fifth and after one of them they kills someone like Kate Steinle. Now all we have to do is get Congress to do what it should have be done thirty years ago and, because it did not, we now still deal with a problem that has become untenable.

 

The issue is complex, but the fact that we can’t solve it speaks volumes about how far we have fallen as a ‘can do’ nation to a ‘don’t want to be bothered’ nation. We should start with a sensible guest worker program to give immigrants a chance to temporarily reside and work in our country. Yes, it is for a limited period of time. But, nothing would stop such a person from seeking permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship here.

 

Next, we need to deal with petitions for temporary U.S. skilled worker, or H-1B, visas. The numbers quickly reach their limit. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting fiscal year 2016 H-1B applications at the beginning of April and reached the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 within a week. Proponents for H1-B expansion have contended that the temporary work visas often go to workers in science, engineering or computer fields, areas the American workforce struggles to fill.

 

Here, I think a better approach is to give green cards to those who qualify. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident, has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and take employment in the U.S. It is an immigration process that leads to permanent residency. I see it all the time in my college teaching. Students come from India, China, and other countries to study here; get advanced skills here; and want to stay here. We need to facilitate the process. These are the kinds of immigrants our society desperately needs to remain globally competitive.

 

In immigration, both sides of the issue have been affected by emotional, rather than reasoned discourse. Both Congress and the illegal immigrants and their supporters have been oblivious to their ethical obligations and, like most things in society today, both Congress and the immigrants have taken the easy way out; acted in their own self-interest; and totally ignored civic duty.

 

Let us not forget what Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address to the nation, “I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.”

 

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 2, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com

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