The Economist: Back to the pesky immigration issue
Last month, I had the privilege of sitting on the stage as more than 1,000 graduates of CU Colorado Springs walked across to receive their diplomas. As each name was called and the corresponding student walked across the platform, the air was pierced with cheers and whistles.
Last name after last name was not of Western European origin, many of which were cum laude or magna cum laude graduates. More than one-third were the first in their family to graduate from college. Almost all had worked full or part-time to help pay for their education. I leaned over to the two deans sitting beside me, both immigrants to the U.S., and whispered, “Isn’t it a shame those immigrants come to the U.S. and are nothing but a burden on society!” (For those of you who don’t know me, that was very much a tongue-in-cheek remark.)
There were two graduation ceremonies in Colorado Springs that day, one in the morning for Arts and Sciences and one in the afternoon for the other schools and colleges. The reason: There is no venue in the city large enough to hold all of the family and friends of the graduates if there were only one ceremony, and our wonderful chancellor refuses to limit the number of friends and family who can attend. As my husband and I exited the World Arena, someone was snapping a photo of a proud young graduate, clearly of non-European ancestry, surrounded by 30 or so proud guests.
It’s been three years since I’ve written about the immigration issue and the need for reform. Although legislation is pending in Congress, we are no nearer a solution than we were back in 2010.
The answers to the issue are so simple!
• Introduce a robust guest worker program that allows people who wish to improve their family’s quality of life back in their home country to come to work in the jobs many American citizens seem to be unwilling to do. Whether in agriculture, hospitality or construction, wages that seem low to us are a vast improvement to what can be earned at home for these temporary immigrants.
• Have a separate visa program for people who want to become permanent residents or citizens. There is a fragment of me that says just get rid of the whole visa thing and welcome anyone who wants to come with open arms. That worked fine for most of our country’s history (until the 1920s). But I suppose that is unrealistic today (although I’m not sure why). If we need to limit the number of permanent visas each year, someone can figure out a fairer way to do so.
• Offer a quick path to citizenship for all of the people who were brought here illegally as children. I don’t know how many of the young graduates who I watched receive diplomas were illegal, but it is in our country’s best interest to change that.
• Make it possible for university graduates who come here on student visas to stay in the U.S. if they so choose. Whether they attend public universities or private colleges, their education is subsidized by our tax dollars. Why force them to go home to work at businesses that compete with ours if they’d prefer to stay here?
• Offer a path to citizenship for the rest of the illegal immigrant population and make it more difficult to come here illegally. All of the creditable research I’ve seen shows that these illegal immigrants already pay more in Social Security and Medicare taxes than they will ever receive in benefits. Many are forced to have illegal Social Security numbers to get jobs and are afraid to go to free clinics or emergency rooms for health care.
We are all immigrants or descendents of immigrants. Don’t tell me you aren’t because you are an American Indian – your ancestors were just smart enough to get here 13,000 years before mine. So let’s put this issue behind us and get on with other important legislation.