Mass immigration reduction act: Tancredo proposes a moratorium
Over the past year, the incoherent policies and porous borders that characterize the U.S. immigration system have been subjected to renewed criticism. In addition to the standard discussion of the economic, social and environmental impact of uncontrolled immigration, concern for homeland security amidst the threat of international terrorism revived the issue.
Nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin published the book Invasion about this subject and ended up on the New York Times best-seller list. A National Review cover story by Joel Mowbray pointed out that most of the 9/11 terrorists should not have been permitted to enter the country under existing immigration laws. Polls continued to show that vast majorities of Americans from a variety of ethnic backgrounds would like to see illegal immigration curtailed and legal immigration reduced.
The only thing missing was a corresponding change in public policy in response to the American people’s concerns. The Bush administration continued to support a migration deal with Mexico that would offer amnesty to illegal immigrants. Then House Democratic Leader – and current presidential aspirant – Richard Gephardt countered with an even more liberal amnesty proposal. In short, the political class has blithely ignored public concerns and continued the post-1965 status quo of mass immigration.
One vital exception has been Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), chairman of the bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus. He has repeatedly challenged the shibboleths trotted out in defense of large-scale immigration without assimilation and insisted upon the enforcement of existing laws. For this, he has been vilified by the politically correct but rewarded by ordinary Americans. In 2002, he was reelected with 68 percent of the vote.
Rep. Tancredo’s latest contribution is to introduce legislation calling for a five-year immigration moratorium. Otherwise known as the Mass Immigration Reduction Act of 2003, it seeks to reduce the level of legal immigration to the point where it is matched or exceeded by emigration. In a statement posted on the congressman’s website, he argued that “each of us can trace our roots to another country, but it is not correct to argue that today’s immigration level is comparable to traditional levels.”
Data cited in this statement bears the congressman’s contention out: Since 1970, immigration has increased the U.S. population by 30 million people, the equivalent of adding Canada. From an average of about 200,000 immigrants annually from 1800 to 1965, we have increased immigration to 1 million annually since 1990.
Given the gaping flaws in our dilapidated federal immigration bureaucracy, which contributed to the decision to end the I.N.S. as we knew it and fold it into the new Department of Homeland Security, it is preposterous to believe that it is capable of screening 1 million newcomers a year for national security purposes. Yet immigration policy remains the same, despite 9/11 and even the fact that we are currently at war with Iraq. If there are Americans like Sgt. Asan Akbar within our own military, think of the number of people from outside the country who may harbor similar violent anti-American attitudes.
Experts ranging from economist George Borjas to the immigration reform commission headed by the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan during the Clinton administration have found that many of these immigrants are mismatched with the needs of the U.S. labor market. With the economy experiencing anemic growth and perhaps about to tumble into the second half of a double-dip recession, unskilled immigration could introduce unnecessary downward wage pressure. There is also the added fiscal strain imposed by such immigration: In 2001, 23 percent of immigrant-headed households were on welfare. According to a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies (insert web link to http://www.cis.org), overall immigrant welfare participation remains high even after welfare reform and in some cases is back to where it was in 1996.
This kind of taxpayer burden can be absorbed when the economy is growing rapidly and governments are awash in new revenues. But the sagging economy has reduced federal revenues, leading to a budget deficit. Additionally, the 50 states are running a cumulative budget deficit of as much as $50 billion this year alone.
The Mass Immigration Reduction Act would alleviate the above pressures with a much needed immigration pause. This will allow the millions of new immigrants who have arrived here in recent years time to assimilate into the American nation. Critics may counter that this is contrary to our history as a nation of immigrants, but it is in fact far more faithful to our historic pattern of intermittent immigration than the status quo. Each immigration wave has been capped by a pause, during which immigrants were assimilated and the social problems that attended mass immigration solved. Our current policy was adopted during a 40-year lull in immigration; waves had never previously been continuous.
Immigration that is economically essentially or justified by legitimate humanitarian concerns would still be permitted. Rep. Tancredo’s bill is not a draconian solution that completely closes the borders. What we would not see is immigration that is either beyond our public officials’ ability to manage or our society’s capacity to assimilate. This is precisely the sound policy objective that a moratorium is intended to achieve.
Tancredo’s bill may have a difficult time finding its way into law. The Bush administration has consistently resisted meaningful immigration reform. Instead, they have cultivated the reigning Republican orthodoxy that the key to Hispanic voter outreach is to oppose efforts to control the borders or reduce immigration.
But even if it doesn’t pass initially, it can keep the immigration debate going and allow the public to see where their elected representatives stand. Voters may find the resulting education instructive as the 2004 election cycle approaches.
Uninterrupted mass immigration on a scale never before attempted has never made much sense. It now makes less sense than ever. Eventually, a moratorium like the one Tancredo is proposing will not seem so politically unrealistic.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”