There are not many subjects around that divide our Nation more dramatically then Immigration, or to be more precise, “Illegal Immigration”.
While most problems find sympathetic opinions based along the line of political parties or religious believes, opinions on immigration seem to jump all over the place, mostly shaped by direct contact with immigrants and the surrounding circumstances, which can be either positive or negative.
The tragedy of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center seems to be the catalyst for a stronger call to secure our countries borders. It does not provide a lot of confidence that we indeed will be able to keep terrorists from entering our nation if a million or so illegal aliens can penetrate our countries borders without much resistance and at their own will.
While most come here to work, crime, drugs, and prostitution are many times the undesirable baggage they bring along, together with their demands and expectations for a better life and many of the social services that are provided to the general population of the USA through the collection of taxes and fees paid by lawful citizens.
While I am an American Citizen, I am also an immigrant. My wife and I came to America in 1973 from Germany. At first I came here on a work visa that allowed us to stay for a number of years without problems. Once we had fallen in love with America and decided to stay we went through the tedious job of applying for “Green Cards” or Permanent Residency. After this goal was achieved, we had to wait another 5 years to be able to apply for citizenship. The legal process was expensive, long-winded, complicated and accompanied by pages and pages of paperwork, fingerprinting, FBI background checks, blood tests, and many uncalled for questions. Indeed, I became a Citizen during the Clinton Presidency. Having had to answer a number of questions under oath, the most hilarious seemed to have been: “have you ever left the USA to avoid the draft?”….as well as “Have you ever committed the crime of perjury?”. In other words, even the President of the United States could not have passed the stringent requirements of “legal” immigration.
Now, being familiar with immigration through my own family, it seems to me that we have indeed a number of very different problems to solve to enable a long-term and permanent solution for the simple word “immigration”. What are our goals and how do they impact on immigration or how does immigration impact on these goals. By looking at these goals one could argue that indeed they intermingle but in realty are quite different or at least could be solved separately from each other.
Goal 1: Secure our Nations borders to assure that nobody enters our country to do us harm.
Goal 2: Secure our borders so that drugs and crime do not put an undue burden on our society.
Goal 3: Provide willing workers for the industries and activities that are unable to attract enough of our own citizens.
Goal 4: Provide a tool to unite families who have been torn apart by immigration and immigration laws.
Goal 5: Show American benevolence towards people who want to overcome poverty and desolate circumstances in their home countries by joining us to pursue the “American Dream”.
Goal 6: Maintain a population growth that maintains the needed number of taxpayers to pay for entitlement and retirement programs to compensate for the declining birth rates among American Citizens.
While we will address American solutions to these American goals later, it is prudent to compare our situation to Germany, a nation that has had to overcome a variety of problems that are not unlike our own, while micromanaging these problems with stringed and changing policies to achieve the needed results.
The comparison to Germany becomes interesting because it had to deal with immigration for different reason at different times with different approaches. In other words, while our problems in America have piled into a morass of complexity, Germany had the luxury to see and address each problem in a historic chain of events, almost one after another. Coming from the devastation of World War II and the sustained losses in population, Germany entered the Economic Miracle (Wirtschafts Wunder) in the 1950′s and was in desperate need for workers. Active recruitment in Southern Europe and particular Turkey brought a large number of foreigners to Germany under a “Guest Worker Program” that was supposed to be a temporary solution.These workers continued to provide Germany with needed laborers well into the 1970s.
More open border policies from the once isolated Eastern European Nations brought a flood of immigrants throughout the eighties asking for political asylum and protection from persecution in their native communist countries. Once the Berlin Wall came down and the Iron Curtain disappeared, the flood of low skill workers rose in the search for a better life in the prosperous united Germany. While Germany did not need to “recruit” immigrants to provide low level workers since the 1970s, a new problem arose in the late 1990s.
The declining birth rate among native Germans put an undue strain on the social support system of a society that was used to many supportive government programs, while not providing for the needed growth of a highly skilled labor force with a major emphasis on computer programmers and IT support personnel. Germany again had to recruit in foreign countries and established easy quotas and entry procedures from Nations like India and Pakistan, countries that seemed to turn out the needed skill level Germany needed.
Throughout its recent history (since WWII) Germany had to face many of the same struggles and challenges as the United States, but it managed, indeed micromanaged its immigration based on a mix of economic needs, political / humanitarian benevolence, and fiscal as well as physical realities. All this, though, with strict adherence to laws, rules, and regulations, supported by a willingness to provide ample of “legal “ways of immigration in face of certain realities, but at the same time strictly enforcing and pursuing “illegal immigration” with full force and collaboration between local, state, and federal Government.
What are the lessons we can learn and how can we solve our own immigration problems while accomplishing the different goals? I feel that the time has come for a “tough love” approach, starting with the question: “what part of illegal don’t you understand?”
- To protect our nation from evil forces it is necessary to control, and, if needed, close our borders to all illegal activities.
- To assure an uninterrupted economic growth we need to establish an official and well monitored “guest worker” program that allows people to legally enter the US for a predetermined time frame and could lead to permanent residency for people who are willing to stay within the framework of our laws.
- To foster assimilation as well as communication among all Americans and their “guest workers” we should make English the official language, building on the historical principal that people who can communicate and understand each other rarely go to war and fight each other. Government should only make English paperwork available and teach English as the first language.
- Follow the lead of other nations around the world by not granting automatic citizenship to children borne on US soil from illegal parents.
- Demand accountability from foreign Governments who oppress their own people and who exploit their Countries resources for the benefit of a few while turning their back on their “huddled masses”
Ironically immigration and borders are one of the very few duties assigned to the Federal Government and yet it this simple task has been a dismal failure.