The United States immigration system could use improvement, but is not as unjust or restrictive as many believe. A very strong case can be made for the exact opposite.
Did you know that our foreign-born population has tripled following the 1965 Hart-Cellar immigration act? Per US census data, in only 4 decades from 1970 it increased as follows: 9,619,302 to 14,079,906 to 19,767,316 and 31,107,889 (in 2000). By 2015 it reached 45 million and is on-track for a staggering 78 million by 2065.
Since the 1965 law, almost 59 million people have immigrated to America (so far). This is much more than at any other time in our history by a wide margin. It is 4 times more than any other country. We alone account for almost 20% of worldwide immigration per year.
Where are all the new immigrants from? Latin America mostly (51% – 30% from Mexico alone). When President Kennedy signed the 1965 immigration act, he said “it will not upset the ethnic mix of our society.” That was true of immigration before the 1965 law, but is far from true today. The ethnicity of the population has shifted significantly and will continue that trend. The ethnic makeup of 2100 will be nothing like 1900.
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
We are unique in the world by welcoming a flood of immigrants year after year. Many countries accept few permanent immigrants as citizens. Mexico, for instance, has had a terrible record on immigration. Even with our generous welcome, illegal immigration is huge, holding at a level of 10 million since 2004 (annual deportation is less than 5% of that). The US is one of only two developed countries that automatically grant citizenship to children of illegal immigrants (“anchor babies”).
Before the 1965 law, the poverty rate among immigrants was about the same as non-immigrants. Today it is almost double, thus requiring a significantly larger portion of taxpayer support.
Immigration to the United States is supported at a steep cost. A whopping 52% of legal immigrants receive welfare and, perhaps surprising to many, 71% of illegal immigrants receive this expensive taxpayer support. It costs California alone $12.3 BILLION dollars per year to educate just the illegal immigrants. The net cost (welfare, less any taxes paid) averages over $14,000 per household of illegal immigrants. This currently costs taxpayers about $113 BILLION per year. Of course, all the money spent in support of legal and illegal immigrants is money not spent on our veterans, on our failing infrastructure, on improving education, on healthcare or on our senior citizens. It contributes to our already monumental national debt. Let that sink in. We must BORROW over $14,000 per year for each of these households. That is money we do not have, debt that saps opportunity from the economy and a burden for us and future generations.
Additionally, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) reports that while illegal aliens are 3.5% of our population, they account for 36.7% of federal convictions. These convictions are primarily for drug trafficking, kidnapping/hostage taking, drug possession, money laundering and murder.
All this is not to say we should seal our borders, prohibit immigration or fail the persecuted. What this does say is that we are very generous and anyone who says otherwise is at best, irresponsibly misinformed.
Moreover, it is right and just that we consider who to welcome into our home and support by the sacrifices of our people. Should it be those closest to our borders and willing to violate our laws to enter uninvited? –OR– should it be those in most desperate need around the world who are literally perishing under the most extreme poverty or by the sword of radical Islam? Which is most just?
Consider also our capacity to welcome immigrants. It is not unlimited. Yes, we can always accept one more, but not without incremental risk little different than continuously adding just one more to a life boat — until it sinks. This boat is already packed and taking on water. If it sinks, no one is helped but many are unjustly harmed.