Debating immigration: Alabama's new law, Obama's strategy

among lawmakers as well as the public. What do you perceive as the key steps to curbing illegal immigration?

IM: Immigration has become a huge concern for Americans for the simple reason that our policies serve no identifiable national objective and because large segments of the American population are being harmed by mass immigration, especially illegal immigration.

First and foremost we need to view immigration as a public policy that serves the greatest interests of the greatest number of Americans. While immigration always benefits immigrants – they would come otherwise – it often harms those who are already here. It affects people’s jobs, the wages they can command, their tax dollars, the quality of their children’s educations, their communities and virtually everything else Americans care about.

As Alabama and Arizona have demonstrated, policies that remove the incentives for people to come and remain in the country can be very effective. The key to curbing illegal immigration is meaningful deterrence. Most importantly, if we make it clear to employers that there will be consequences to being caught with illegal aliens on the payroll, jobs for illegal aliens will dry up. Beyond that we must eliminate access to non-emergency and non-essential government services and benefits. While no one would suggest that we can (or should even try to) deport every illegal alien who is in the United States, the credible threat of removal offers yet another layer of deterrence.

There is no law made by man or God that has 100 percent compliance, and our immigration law will not be the exception. But there are many reasonable steps that can be taken that would substantially reduce the levels of illegal immigration to the United States. We do not have to choose between the stark alternatives of mass amnesty and mass deportation. We can and must adopt and enforce laws that convince millions of illegal aliens that they will not benefit by coming or remaining here illegally.

In addition to the much-discussed problems of illegal immigration, our legal immigration policy is also bloated and dysfunctional. We admit far too many people – about 1.1 million a year. Immigration outpaces job creation and we do not select people based on any rational assessment of their likelihood to succeed in twenty-first century America. The vast majority of legal immigrants are admitted simply because they happen to be related to someone who came here in the recent past. Under our policy of “family chain migration” we allow people to petition for extended family members, irrespective of the relatives’ skills and education. Thus, each time we admit someone legally, the line gets longer not shorter. America needs a system that admits fewer people, that selects immigrants based on individual merit, and limits family migration entitlements to spouses and minor children.

MG: We need to begin by reframing both the question and the goal.  Our goal should be to create and maintain an immigration system that fosters economic growth, protects all communities, and ensures that each individual is treated with dignity and respect. Then, the question becomes what kind of system should we have in place that minimizes the likelihood of illegal immigration going forward.  There has been plenty of smart thinking on this issue over the years—we need a coordinated national strategy on immigration policy that provides sufficient visas to balance supply and demand.  This means eliminating the huge backlogs of employment and family based visas we currently have for persons who want to immigration permanently to the United States and setting realistic numbers for future immigrations.  It means having an honest conversation about the scope and role of temporary workers, creating a system that protects the interests of employers and workers.  It means eliminating the idea that immigration laws have to be punitive to be effective.  So, really, we aren’t going to deal with illegal immigration simply by trying to enforce our way out of the situation.  We can’t afford to removal all eleven million people, nor should we want to, because many of those folks are contributing to our economy and our society.  We should focus our enforcement energies on people who want to do us harm, and focus our political energies on showing people that we have to reboot the immigration system.