Blogger answers questions on immigration policy

By Blogger Mark Kadel

Blogger Mark Kadel

We continue the second seriesof our blog examining answers to common questions about immigration.  This post will focus more on the facts and figures about immigration policy.Why don’t these people come the legal way, the way my ancestors did?

It’s easy to romanticize the immigrants to the United States of a century ago. But in reality, the immigrants who came through Ellis Island or arrived in California from China and southeast Asia came for the same primary reasons that immigrants come today. And, at the time, they faced much of the same resentment from some native-born U.S. citizens. What has changed dramatically, though, and the reason that many immigrants today do not come legally, is our government’s ever changing immigration policy. Prior to 1882, no one came illegally to the United States because all immigration was legal. There was no requirement of a visa and no federal restrictions on who could immigrate. That began to change with the Chinese Exclusion Actin 1882 and several gradual changes that, by 1924, nearly closed off immigration to all but a fortunate few. While immigration reforms passed in 1965 reopened the possibility of immigration for some groups, current policy provides most who would like to immigrate with no legal option.Why don’t immigrants just wait their turn in line?

There are four basic ways a person might obtain Lawful Permanent Resident status in the United States:
  1. Employment-Based Immigration through the H1A/H1B/H2a/H2b/H3/H4 visa program.  These employment programs allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.  However, these visas are almost exclusively reserved for those with “advanced degrees” and “extraordinary abilities,” not for those content to do low wage labor.
  2. Diversity Visa Lottery is a United States congressionally mandated lottery program for citizens of foreign countries to receive a United States Permanent Resident Card.  The odds of winning are about one in 300, and it’s only a possibility for individuals from “under-represented” countries, not for those from Mexico, the Philippines, China, India and other “over-represented” countries.
  3. Refugee or Asylee Status is reserved for those fleeing severe persecution, but not for those fleeing poverty, natural disasters or environmental degradation.  Only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees are allowed to be resettled to the United States in a given year as the president sets a cap on the number of Refugee and Asylee allowed to resettle here.
  4. Family Based Immigration through the I-730 visa process.  Backlogs can be as long as 20 years, and many others do not have the requisite relative in the United States to sponsor them.
Many individuals who come and find work in the United States do not fit into any of these categories, so there is really no “line” in which they could begin to wait.  For many there is no legal way for them to come under current law.Aren’t undocumented immigrants a drain on the economy?

Actually, almost all economists (44 out of 46 of those surveyed by the Wall Street Journal) agree that undocumented immigrants are good for the U.S. economy. Contrary to popular perception, most undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. The Social Security Administration estimates that three out of four undocumented immigrants have Social Security, Medicare and income taxes deducted from their paychecks, and the Social Security Administration has taken in as much as $12 billion annually in recent years in contributions that do not match a valid Social Security number.  Immigrants using invalid Social Security numbers will not be eligible for any Social Security benefits under current law, nor are they eligible for public benefits such as welfare or food stamps.  Undocumented immigrants are responsible for certain costs to the economy—particularly at the local and state levels for education and emergency healthcare—but, overall, the economic benefits they bring outweigh the costs.Next time we will examine Biblical perspectives on current immigration policies by answering such questions as:
How do we justify the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law? And, What does the Bible say about this issue?


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