by Joe Guzzardi
After a three week hiatus from the debate circuit, eight Republican hopefuls took the stage last week. Held in economically devastated Michigan, the debate gave candidates a chance to come out swinging against the federal policies that led to the state’s unemployment rate which peaked at 14 percent after the 2007 meltdown. Currently, Michigan unemployment is 11.1 percent, the nation’s third highest.
For those of us who were waiting for a meaningful dialogue about immigration, the effect of which directly impacts not only employment but also the quality of education, health care, the environment, crime, and national security, debate night was long and lonely. During the two hour session, immigration was mentioned only in passing. You’d never guess that, because of Arizona and other states’ enforcement laws, immigration has been headline news for months.
During the earlier debates, except for a few passionate exchanges about the DREAM Act and parroting the universally accepted mantra that the border should be secured, candidates mostly avoided immigration.
But since the adverse impact over-immigration can so easily be woven into America’s other social problems, it’s a mystery why the candidates won’t step up to connect the dots. How hard would it be to make the indisputable observation that accepting over one million legal immigrants annually and giving them work permits creates more American joblessness?
While some immigration-related topics like ending birthright citizenship might be considered too controversial to defend in the national limelight, other immigration restrictions have Americans overwhelming support.
I’ll cite as an example the failure of the U.S. government to enforce the time limits written into the millions of non-immigrant visas issued every year. Simply put, too many of the 45 million annual United States visitors never go home. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, about 35 percent of illegal aliens first enter the United States on legal visas and then overstay. Yet, since 1996 when Congress authorized a check-in and check-out system, no president has fully implemented it. Currently, US-Visit makes no effort to track foreign visitors and has no idea where they are either during their stay or after their visas expire.
Enforcing visa terms is an important part of national security. And since many overstayers get jobs, visa abuses adversely impact American employment opportunities. Making sure people return when their visas expire is not controversial.
Another topic that has broad voter appeal is enforcing existing deportation laws. The United States deports only four percent, or about 300,000, of its illegal aliens. Among those who remain, many enroll their children in school, work under the table and access emergency health care.
Stepped up deportations would create two positive consequences. First, consistent with the law, existing aliens would be removed. Second, those considering entering the United States illegally would be deterred. Potential aliens could be further discouraged if other Congressional measures like mandatory E-Verify and eliminating birthright citizenship were in place to further reduce their incentives.
In a perfect world, there would be no illegal immigration. Aliens have, for the most part, come against the American people’s will. Immigration has never been a ballot issue. Still, even though Americans want to know the candidates’ positions, immigration is a taboo topic.