If Congress is going to pursue true immigration reform over the next four years, it will have to include policies that go beyond hiring new Border Patrol agents and sending aerial drones to the Rio Grande. For as much as has been written over the last two years about walls, deportations, amnesty, and paths to citizenship, the following four steps may be more important than all of those proposals put together.
Putting the “Temporary” Back in Temporary Visas
Illegal immigrants who surge across the border in nondescript smugglers’ vans are a problem, but they’re a drop in the bucket compared to “visitors” who overstay their legal welcome. Right now, we have immigration officials handing out visas that may as well be citizenship papers. Supposedly, these visitors are supposed to return to their home country within six months before coming back, but even six months is a ridiculous length of time. If you come here for half a year, you are either independently wealthy or you are sponging off the taxpayers. We need to drastically reduce the time limit on these visas and make sure foreign visitors aren’t turning their vacations into permanent residencies.
Get to the Bottom of Remittances
When promising to make Mexico pay for the border wall, Donald Trump suggested confiscating remittances until the tab was paid. Unfortunately, we don’t know how much money illegal immigrants are sending back to their home country because the federal government doesn’t bother to keep track of it. This is (one of the reasons) why it’s a joke to argue that illegal immigrants are a net plus to our economy. If their wages are largely going back to Mexico, that argument is false. We need hard numbers and then we need to crack down.
Protect the Healthcare System
Illegal immigrants may not qualify for typical benefits like welfare and food stamps, but they are a major drain on our healthcare system. Some studies conclude that hospitals in the Southwest spend as much as 15% of their total budget providing care for people who shouldn’t even be in the United States. At a time when we’re already struggling to get health costs under control, this is nothing less than a national outrage.
Enforce Employment Laws
Here’s why the issue of immigration reform is often so irritating: Why do we need new laws when we don’t even enforce the ones we have? Shouldn’t we at least start there? The biggest phantom law pertaining to illegal immigration is the one that bans companies from hiring undocumented workers. If we start holding these businesses accountable, we can take away one of the biggest carrots drawing illegal immigrants into our country.