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Immigration

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

-          Matthew 22:36-40; note also that these two commands are taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

-          Joshua 1:6-8 

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

-          I Timothy 5:8

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

-          Exodus 22:21

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living among you must be treated as one of your native-born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.”

-          Lev 19:33-34

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron:  ‘These are the regulations for the Passover:  No foreigner is to eat of it.  Any slave you have brought out may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it…

“An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land.  No uncircumcised male may eat of it.  The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

-          Exodus 12:43-49

“Everyone who is native-born must do things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, he must do exactly as you do.  The community is to have the same rules for you and the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.”

-          Numbers 15:13-15

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”

-          Ruth 1:16

“By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”

-          Matthew 7:16-18

Like everything else in the Bible, the Biblical principles on immigration should be interpreted in the overall context of a Biblical worldview.  This means always keeping in mind that the most important two commandments in the Bible are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. 

And as discussed many times earlier on this site, since love is a voluntary choice, which cannot be compelled, saying that love is the supreme virtue also implies a strong commitment to individual freedom.

This is one of the reasons why the rule of law is one of the first principles of a Biblical worldview.  Laws are the means by which we, the American people, freely express our considered view on what our immigration policy should be.  And, for better or for worse, it should be our choice.  For either the executive or the judicial branches of our government to simply disregard (or to unilaterally change) the laws our federal or state legislatures have passed on any subject (not just immigration) is a form of tyranny.  If we think the law is wrong, we should change it by the normal legislative processes, not ignore it.

Justice (which means treating all people equally and fairly) is another of the first principles of a Biblical worldview.  And this is why the Biblical command says “love your neighbor as yourself.”  A significant portion of our political establishment (within all major political parties) seems to feel that some concept of “worldwide social justice” requires that we put people from other nations ahead of law-abiding Americans in terms of future economic opportunities.  (This is the clear implication of an “open borders” policy.)

But this is not the Biblical view.  In fact, to a certain extent, the Biblical view is the opposite.  The Biblical goal is that all people should be treated equally and fairly, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and not “loving our neighbors more than ourselves, and secretly hating ourselves.”    And as discussed very early on this site (in the portion of the First Principles section on “Love is the Supreme Virtue,”) a clear hierarchy of moral responsibilities is specified in the Bible, starting with our responsibilities to God and our immediate families, and then extending outward to more distant relatives, our local community, our country, and the world.  One of the passages that makes this clear is I Timothy 5:8:  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  In other words, if you do not begin by loving God, your own family, and your local community, then you really love no one at all.

This is why I think it is a very reasonable analogy to regard our country as an extended family.  And therefore I believe that the overall goals of a Biblical immigration policy should be:  a) to  consider the needs of the American people (including legal permanent residents who were born abroad) first, while also b) not letting our natural (and to some extent healthy) self-regard blind us to the need to treat all immigrants (all of whom may be to varying extents vulnerable to changes in political policy) fairly.  Or in other words, from a Biblical perspective, our immigration policy should be about balancing the rule of law and America’s economic interests with fair and compassionate treatment of the immigrants.

The fact that immigrants may to some extent be among the most vulnerable members of our society is the reason why many of the Biblical passages on immigration remind the Israelites that “you were aliens in Egypt.”  Or in the American political context, we should not forget that we are a nation of immigrants.  In other words, treat others as you wish to be treated, which is a restatement of the basic Biblical principle of loving your neighbors as yourself.

One important application of the principle of treating others as you wish to be treated, in the context of immigration policy, is that we should be willing to treat immigrants as individual people who are valuable in God’s sight, rather than allowing our perceptions to be ruled by negative stereotypes which may turn out to be untrue.  For example, the prominence of illegal immigration in our political debate makes it easy to stereotype all immigrants as criminals, but this is far from true.  Although the illegal immigrants are here in violation of our immigration laws (and that fact should not be forgotten in setting future policy), and although terrorists and drug cartels (organized crime) do to some extent take advantage of lapses in our border security, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are law-abiding.

And this should not be a surprise to us if we reflect on the strength of character that is required to actually move to another country.  This is how the Bible describes the journey of our spiritual forefather Abraham to the promised land:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to the place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

-          Hebrews 11:8-10

But in applying the Biblical passages on immigration to our modern political context, it is important that we should consider the differences as well as the similarities between ancient Israel and modern America.   Immigrants were allowed to freely join the society of ancient Israel, but in return full assimilation was required, to an extent that would be probably be unimaginable to even the most strident advocates of full assimilation in American politics today. 

Ancient Israel was a theocratic society, so the price of full membership in that society was acceptance of Israel’s God, as well as the full body of both civil and religious laws that were proclaimed by the priesthood and enforced by the judges.  And if any foreigner wanted to participate in Israel’s religious rites, they had to do so according to the same rules as the native-born Israelites.  This meant that in order to participate in the celebration of the feast of Passover[1] (which was the central event of ancient Jewish religious life), every foreign-born male had to be circumcised[2], just as was the case for the native-born Israelites (Exodus 12:43-49.)   And participation in the other religious rites was on a similar basis:  those who were foreign-born had to follow the same rules as the native-born Israelites (Numbers 15:13-15.)  The ultimate ideal of Biblical assimilation was expressed by Ruth:  “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

It is also important to remember that ancient Israel was a society that relied heavily on subsistence agriculture.  In such a society, more people were generally considered to mean more hands to help with the work, and in the long run more prosperity.  However, in our modern high-technology (and high-productivity) society, that is less true than it was in the past.  And from a Biblical perspective, it is entirely appropriate that we consider the “fruit,” or observable consequences, of various alternative policies (Matthew 7:16-18), especially in an area such as immigration where there will inevitably be significant differences of opinion over how to apply the Biblical principles to our modern situation.   

From an economic point of view, the bottom line on our immigration policy is fairly simple.  As a result of various extraordinary events, there have been two significant pauses in America’s job creation during the past 16 years (Jan 2000 – June 2016.)  However, our immigration policy has not paused at all.

The chart below shows America’s job creation from January 2000 – June 2016, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (BLS/CPS[3]) data.   As shown in this chart, there were two pauses in America’s job creation between January 2000 and the present, during which no net jobs were created.  The first of these pauses in job creation, which resulted from the combination of the popping of the “dot com” bubble in the stock market and the economic effects of the  9/11 terrorist attacks, lasted slightly more than two years, from March 2001 – June 2003.  The second pause in job creation, which resulted from the Great Recession, was much longer, lasting almost seven years (November 2007 – September 2014.)    Therefore, due to extraordinary events, America’s economy created no net jobs at all during nine of the past 16 years.    So even after averaging in a fairly healthy rate of job creation (averaging about 2,000,000 jobs per year) during the “non-pause” periods, America’s net job creation between January 2000 and June 2016 totaled only about 14.2 million jobs, or an average of slightly less than 900,000 jobs per year. 

But during the same period, America’s immigration policy did not pause at all.  During U.S. fiscal years 2000 - 2014, an average of about 1,000,000 legal immigrants per year gained lawful permanent resident (LPR[4] or “green card” status.)  At the same time (according to the Pew Center’s data shown in the chart below),  the net increase in America’s population of illegal immigrants was about 3,000,000 (rising from about 8.3 million in 2000 to 11.3 million at the end of calendar year 2014.)

 

Even after allowing for the effects of both deportations and voluntary returns, the net effect of these trends is that the U.S. population of working-age immigrants increased by about 10.1 million people between 2000 and the first quarter of 2016, and the net increase in employment of working-age immigrants during the same period was about 6.7 million people.[5]

At the same time, a combination of a) the aging of America’s workforce, b) longer life expectancies and better medical care, and c) economic necessity have created a growing demand for jobs among America’s senior citizens (age 65 or over.)  As shown in the chart below, the proportion of America’s senior citizen population that is still employed has increased from about 12% in 2000 to almost 19% as of April 2016.  Because the total population of people aged  65 or over is increasing rapidly and the proportion of those people who are still working is also increasing rapidly at the same time, this creates a substantial additional demand for jobs.  Specifically, according to the BLS/CPS data, the total number of senior citizens who are employed has increased from about 3.9 million in 2000 to about 8.4 million as of the first quarter of 2016.  This is an increase of 4.5 million senior citizen employees over the 16-year period, or a demand for an average of about 281,000 additional senior citizen jobs per year.  And the U.S. Census Bureau expects this high rate of increase in senior citizen employment to continue through at least 2030, as the “baby boomer” generation approaches retirement age.[6]  So this is clearly a long-term trend that has to be taken into account in setting future economic policies. 


And here are some other key statistics related to America’s domestic employment situation:  Each year in America, about 3.9 million people turn 18, about 3.5 million people graduate from high school (including 3.2 million from public high schools and an additional 0.3 million from private schools), and America’s colleges and universities award about 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees.[7]  About 3.6 million Americans turn 65 each year, of which about 3 million retire and about 600,000 remain employed. 

Therefore, our economy needs to create an average of about 1.2 million jobs per year just to keep up with the growth in our domestic workforce (about 900,000 jobs/year for people under 65, plus an additional 300,000 jobs/year to account for the growth in the senior citizen workforce.)


And over the past 16 years, not only has our net domestic job creation lagged this pace, but there have been substantial increases in immigration and immigrant employment as well.

The combined result of all of these trends is shown in the table below:

America’s unusually slow rate of net job creation over the past 16 years, in combination with the large increases in senior citizen and immigrant employment during the same period, have created a situation in which, in theory, only a net increase of 3 million jobs (or an average of less than 200,000 new jobs per year) have become available to America’s native-born workers under the age of 65.

But of course (as anyone with some business background, and/or training in economics, knows), this is not quite how the labor market works in the real world.  As shown in the following charts, the reality is (as one would expect in an even partially efficient labor market), that all categories of American workers (native-born and foreign-born alike, of all races, and all education levels) have suffered significant declines in workforce participation as a result of a grossly oversupplied labor market.[8]

There are several important conclusions to be drawn from the above charts:

1)      The dominant mainstream media/mainstream economist narrative about the causes of America’s declining labor force participation (which blames it primarily on the aging of the workforce) is almost certainly wrong (or at least substantially overstated.)  The above charts show data for people between the ages of 18 and 64 (the vast majority of whom should still be working.)  The aging of the workforce may have had some minor negative effect on labor force participation within the age 18-64 demographic, but as noted earlier, the proportion of people aged 65 and over who are working has actually increased significantly in recent years.  Therefore, the predominant effect shown in these charts is clearly labor oversupply, caused primarily by excessive immigration.

2)      Educational attainment is clearly a major determinant of employment prospects.  However, it is important to note that this labor force participation data actually significantly understates the extent to which holders of college degrees have been impacted by the labor oversupply.  According to the results of recent surveys reported by CNBC, about 50% of each college graduating class between 2013 and 2015 (or almost 1 million bachelors degree holders per year) reported working in a job that did not require a college degree.[9]  Something similar is presumably also true for the classes of 2009-2012, for whom the effects of the Great Recession were even worse.  Thus, as many as 7 million college graduates who are shown in the official data as participating fully in the labor force may in fact be underemployed. 

3)      Americans of all races (whether native-born or foreign-born) have been impacted in broadly similar ways by the labor oversupply once one adjusts for the effects of educational attainment.  However, due to the lower levels of educational attainment by African-Americans and Hispanics, African-Americans and Hispanics (whether native-born or immigrants) have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the labor oversupply.

4)      Therefore, the establishments of all of the American political parties (which, broadly speaking, favor higher immigration levels despite all of the above data that strongly suggests the need for much lower immigration levels) are favoring a policy that is harmful to all Americans, but disproportionately disadvantages African Americans and Hispanics.

Based on the above data, there is a clearly a need for a significant and long-term reduction in America’s immigration levels.  The remainder of this section analyzes the extent of the reductions that are needed, and how they can be implemented in a fair and humanitarian way.

To determine the levels of immigration reduction that are needed, it will be helpful to take a slightly more detailed look at America’s employment situation as of the fourth quarter of 2015, as compared with the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2000.  This table includes data for all Americans (both native-born and immigrants.)

As shown in the chart above, the “official” (or U-3) unemployment figure that is most widely reported in the media significantly understates America’s true unemployment rate, because it counts as unemployed only those who are not currently working, but have looked for a job within the last four weeks.  When “discouraged workers” (those not currently working, who have not looked for a job within the past four weeks, but have looked within the past 12 months), and those who are working part-time for economic reasons are included, the number of unemployed people nearly doubles from the “official” mark (reaching 15.3 million people), and the unemployment rate also nearly doubles from the “official” mark, reaching 9.6%.  This expanded measure of unemployment is known as the “U-6” measure of unemployment.

As the data in columns 6 and 7 of the above table shows, the number of “discouraged workers” increased by 700,000 between the fourth quarter of 2000 and the fourth quarter of 2015, and the number of people working part-time for economic reasons has increased by an additional 2.8 million people.  The number of people represented in each of these categories of unemployment has nearly doubled between 4Q2000 and 4Q2015.  And when these changes are combined with the increases that have occurred in the “U-3” unemployment rate, the total number of unemployed or underemployed workers included in the “U-6” unemployment rate has increased by 5.8 million people.  Therefore, even after accounting for the increase in America’s population that have occurred between 2000 and 2015, we would need about 4.8 million additional jobs to bring the “U-6” measure of unemployment back down to the 4Q2000 level of 6.6%.

But even this understates the extent to which the oversupply of labor has damaged the American economy.  As shown in column 10 of the table, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 16 and 64 who are not working (including those who have stopped looking for work and are therefore not counted as being in the labor force at all) has increased from 26.4% as of 4Q2000 to 31.6% as of  4Q2015.  The total number of people between the ages of 16 and 64 who are not working has increased by 17.5 million between 4Q2000 and  4Q2015.  Therefore, even after accounting for the increases in the U.S. population between 2000 and 2015, we would need to add about 10.8 million additional jobs to get the percentage of those not working back down to the 4Q2000 level of 26.4% (or in other words, to re-employ all the people of working age who are currently not working for economic reasons.)

As will be explained in more detail below, I think the bottom line here is that we need as complete a ban as possible on all forms of further immigration (both legal and illegal) for a period of between 8 and 17 years.  (The former is approximately what would be required to get the “U-6” unemployment rate back down to the 4Q2000 percentage, and the latter is approximately what would be required to get the percentage of people between the ages of 16 and 64 who are not working back down to the 4Q2000 level.)

This is in stark contrast to the “establishment” positions of all of the political parties, who are all talking about expanding immigration numbers significantly (in some cases by tens of millions over the next decade, as would have occurred under either the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, or some of the current Democratic Party proposals.)  This is an area where the “establishment” positions of all of the political parties are in direct contravention of the actual needs of the American people (both native-born and foreign-born.)  And this demonstrates exactly how little the establishments of all of the political parties understand or care about what is really going on in the American economy.

Here’s how I think a more sensible immigration policy should be implemented:

A)    Secure the Border

NumbersUSA (which is a grassroots, bipartisan organization advocating lower immigration levels)[10] has proposed a 10-step plan for securing the border that I do not think I can improve much upon.  Here are the 10 steps they advocate:

“The following list of Ten Steps to Re-establish the Integrity of the Immigration System would make great strides toward ending illegal immigration, assisting struggling American workers, and making our communities more safe. Many of these items are already federal law, but simply ignored by the current and past Administrations. Legislation has been introduced to repair much of the rest.

1. Make E-Verify mandatory for all U.S. employers to eliminate the jobs magnet.

2. Complete the Congressionally-mandated biometric entry/exit system to track non-immigrant visitors to the U.S.

3.End the practice of birthright citizenship for illegal aliens and foreign visitors.

4.Require state and local law enforcement to report affirmatively all non-citizens in custody to ICE, make ICE detainers mandatory, and require ICE to pick up and remove deportable aliens.

5.Expand expedited removal to include all illegal aliens with criminal convictions.

6. End catch-and-release of illegal aliens by requiring that they be detained until removal.

7.Deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to nations that refuse to repatriate their citizens.

8.Reform the judicial process in immigration courts, including restricting relief from removal, to expedite the process and reduce the backlog of cases.

9.Restrict asylum to the internationally recognized definition of those who are unable to be returned to the home country due to a well-founded fear of (state) persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

10.Allow Border Patrol access to all federal lands.”

The only modifications I would make to this are: 

a)      I think the incoming Presidential Administration should perform a complete review of our border security, as is normally done for other pressing issues, with a Department of Homeland Security report on this subject to be made public, and

b)      I think immediate deportations of illegal immigrants should be limited to four categories:  criminals who have committed arrestable offenses that are unrelated to immigration law, those currently trying to cross our borders illegally, unaccompanied minors, and illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States after December 31, 2015, and do not have minor children who are U.S. citizens.  As discussed in more detail in step C below, I think the remaining illegal immigrants, who are not recent arrivals and who have been law-abiding except for violations of immigration law, should be given a brief grace period to apply for work permits that would allow them to stay here legally (but should not get a “path to citizenship.”)

The rationale for deporting unaccompanied minors is that, since in many cases they have nowhere else to go, many of the unaccompanied minors eventually become members of criminal gangs.  To quote the chairman of the Board of Supervisors in  Prince William County, VA (which is located about 25 miles south of Washington DC), on this subject: “We warned two to three years ago that this influx over the border of illegal aliens was going to cause an increase in MS-13 and other gang-related crime,”  Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisor, told Fox 5. “It’s happening. We are seeing it happen. It is not just in the border towns. It is happening all across America and we are seeing it especially here in Northern Virginia and the D.C. region”[11]

Deporting the unaccompanied minors would also have the effect of re-uniting families, which is entirely appropriate.  It was an act of gross irresponsibility to allow unaccompanied minors to come here in the first place.   

 The rationale for deporting the recent illegal arrivals is twofold:

a)      In order to avoid another “border surge” (which has chaotic impacts on our border communities, and creates a humanitarian crisis in which the lives of new illegal immigrants are at risk), we need to pick a “cut-off date” for new arrivals that is some time in the recent past.

b)      In order for this whole process to work, everyone involved has to know that the border is secure first, and that we are serious about maintaining the security of the border.  Keeping the illegal immigrant population at a constant level (as it was from 2008-2014) depends on strong enforcement of our immigration laws.  According to DHS statistics, there were a total of about 577,000 illegal immigrants removed or returned during FY2014, including about 414,000 removed as a result of deportation orders and about another 163,000 returned without deportation orders – presumably in the immediate vicinity of the border.[12]  So that is roughly what is needed to keep the illegal immigrant population at a constant level.

B)    Implement the Broadest Possible Moratorium on Further Immigration (Legal or Illegal) for the Next 8 to 17 Years

If we were to implement the broadest possible moratorium on further immigration, that would reduce the number of people getting a “green card” or (also known as lawful permanent resident or LPR status) from about 1,000,000 per year currently to about 350,000 per year.  The remaining 350,000 legal immigrants per year consist of about 250,000 people per year who marry “green card” holders or U.S. citizens, plus a combined total of about 100,000 refugees or asylum-seekers per year.  Although there is not much we either can or should do about the historically “normal” number of marriages or refugees, we absolutely can and should impose quotas to keep these categories of immigrants at their current levels.[13]  In this situation, the number of new immigrants being employed in America each year would also be reduced by about two-thirds, from over 400,000 per year currently to about 150,000 per year.

As discussed previously, the U.S. needs to create a total about 1,200,000 new jobs each year to meet the needs of its domestic workforce (including about 900,000 new jobs per year held by people under age 65, plus an increase of about 300,000 jobs per year for people aged 65 and over.)  Adding in the irreducible minimum of 150,000 new jobs per year for new legal immigrants would raise the number of new jobs required each year to a total of 1,350,000. 

Since the American economy’s average rate of job creation during the “non-pause” periods over the last 16 years was about 2,000,000 jobs per year,[14] each year of the immigration moratorium would reduce America’s current rate of underemployment by about 650,000 jobs per year.  And as noted earlier, we need between 4.8 and 10.8 million new jobs to “balance out” the total amount of underemployment that has occurred (primarily as a result of excessive immigration) over the past 16 years.  (The lower number represents bringing the “U-6” unemployment rate back down to the 4Q2000 level, and the higher number represents bringing the percentage of the under-65 population that is not working back down to the 4Q2000 level.)  So a little simple math[15] will tell you that we need the most complete moratorium we can impose on new immigration (both legal and illegal) for a period of between 8 and 17 years.

This type of broad moratorium on new immigration would mean that the total number of H-1B visas would remain constant at its current level of about 350,000, and that every other work visa program would be subject to a similar quota maintaining that program at its current level.  Although the granting of new “green cards” would be limited to a total of 350,000/year, in the categories previously mentioned, green card holders who are already here could continue the process of applying for naturalization/citizenship under the current rules, exactly as before.

There has been a lot of talk about “reforming” the naturalization process, but here as elsewhere in the immigration debate, one needs to be careful to define what is meant by “reform.”  Although I have no objection to making the process of naturalization more efficient administratively, the residency requirements, the English proficiency and other educational requirements of the process, and the quota system for the maximum number of naturalizations per year from various origin countries all seem to me to have been fairly well thought out, and further careful thought, plus full public debate, needs to occur before we revise any of these requirements.

C)    Offer Most Illegal Immigrants Who Are Already Here Legal Status, But NOT a “Path to Citizenship”

As noted earlier, I think illegal immigrants who are a) already here, b) law-abiding except for violations of immigration law, c) are not unaccompanied minors, and d) came here before December 31, 2015 and/or have children who are U.S. citizens (and thus are at least arguably long-term residents) should be allowed a “grace period” to apply for work permits that would give them lawful permanent resident status, but NOT provide a path to citizenship.  (There are already special “temporary” green cards that do not allow an immediate path to citizenship, so all we would need to do is to make that temporary restriction permanent in the case of those who are known to be here illegally.) 

The Biblical rationales for this policy are:  a) to treat everyone who is impacted by these decisions (including native-born Americans, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants)

as fairly as possible, and b) to take into account the fact that, however compelling their economic or other motives for coming here may have been, the illegal immigrants have made a conscious decision to disrespect American laws, and therefore by definition to assimilate much less than they should have. 

Since the rule of law is one of the key (Biblical) underpinnings of American society, and since it is also the mechanism by which the American people express their considered, and freely developed and debated, views on what our immigration policy should be, disregarding the law is not a small matter.  Furthermore, our immigration policy already largely follows the Biblical principle of treating immigrants and native-born citizens equally (with the necessary and proper exception of denying illegal immigrants access to federally-funded welfare programs paid for by American taxpayers.)  And therefore, especially if we were to further improve the status of illegal immigrants by giving them legal permanent resident status, there would be essentially nothing but the privilege of citizenship to distinguish between illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born Americans.

So I do not think it is fair to either the legal immigrants or the native-born Americans to give the illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.  That would essentially jump the illegal immigrants to the head of the immigration line, which would be grossly unfair to the legal immigrants, encourage further illegal immigration, and substantially impair America’s ability to set any sort of rational immigration policy in the future. 

Under this policy, essentially what we would be saying to the illegal immigrants is:  “we will give you lawful permanent resident status, but in return you must:  a) give up the path to citizenship, and b) deal honestly with American law enforcement in the future.”  All things considered, I think that is about as fair as we can possibly be about this whole thing.  And I think this policy would substantially help American workers, as well as the illegal immigrants.  If the the illegal immigrants did gain lawful permanent resident status, their employers would have to pay them at least the minimum wage, pay the employer’s share of the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, and comply with all of the other economic and worker safety provisions of American employment law (rather than paying them partially if at all, in cash, and “under the table” as frequently occurs today.)  And this would have a significant positive impact on average wages in industries such as construction, food service, and agriculture, which currently heavily employ illegal immigrants.  And cutting off the “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants would also discourage further illegal immigration in the future, which is important in maintaining a fair playing field for all American workers (but especially those with lower levels of formal education.)

But as noted earlier, securing the border first is vital to the success of this policy.  We need to be able to credibly assure both native-born Americans and legal immigrants that the population of illegal immigrants will not continue to expand, and that sufficient law enforcement resources are in place to keep the problem of illegal immigration from getting worse.  Therefore, we need to ensure that those who are currently trying to cross the border illegally, or are recent arrivals without minor children who are U.S. citizens, continue to be deported.

One of the most important means of doing this is to ensure that the “grace period” for illegal immigrants to apply for work permits is temporary (probably not exceeding one year after the passage of federal immigration reform legislation.)  Additionally, we should require all employers to immediately begin using the “E-Verify” system to verify their employees citizenship or legal residency status.  And employers should be subject to a fine of $10,000 per illegal immigrant (with the fine indexed to inflation) for every illegal immigrant who continues to be employed after the expiration of the “grace period.”

D)    Treat the Problem of Jihadist Immigration as the National Security Issue that It Is

By way of context here, I should begin by mentioning that I read completely through the Quran (in addition to the Bible) as part of the preparation for writing this site.  My purpose in doing so was to try to understand to what extent the Islamic moral code was either similar to or different from the Judeo-Christian moral code, and to what extent the Quran really condoned terrorist attacks on innocent people.

To make a long story short, I (along with a substantial majority of Muslims around the world) have concluded that the Quran does not really condone suicide attacks or other terrorist attacks on innocent people throughout the world (which is the way “jihad,” which literally means “holy war,” is generally practiced by ISIL and other sponsors of terrorism throughout the world today.)  In brief, the Quran places important limits on violence in defense of Islam, which generally restrict it to cases of self-defense, or of defending the oppressed, in which there are no pre-existing treaty obligations, and also appeals strongly to the believers’ religious conscience to limit the extent of the violence.  As such, the Quran’s teachings on the use of violence are somewhat similar to Christian teachings on the same subject.  I do not presume to be any sort of scholar of Islam or the Quran myself, but for one good overview of this subject by a noted Islamic scholar see the Introduction to a recent Oxford University Press translation of the Quran, by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem.[16]

However, there is still a small minority of people who claim to be within the Islamic tradition, and yet seek to advance their version of Islam by violence.  (These are the people that I refer to as “jihadists,” in order to distinguish them from what I believe to be the mainstream of Islamic tradition.)  According to data from the Pew Research Center, about 7% of Muslims in the United States believe suicide attacks (and presumably other acts of violence as well) against civilian targets are “sometimes” justified in defense of Islam, which is comparable to the global average of 8% of Muslims who hold this view.[17]  And as we have seen in Europe (where the number of Muslim immigrants is currently much larger than in the United States), this same militant minority is also often responsible for other forms of civil disturbance, including honor killings, rioting, other violent crimes, and agitation in support of forcibly imposing sharia law.  Even though I personally view jihadism as a false religion[18], the existence of jihadism is a geopolitical reality that we have to take into account.

A 7%-8% minority of Muslim immigrants who are either supportive of, or will turn a blind eye towards, jihadist terrorism[19] may not at first glance seem to be very large.  However, under current policy the U.S. admits about 65,000 people per year from the Middle East (including about 30,000 refugees per year from the Middle East, plus approximately another 35,000 people from the Middle East who get green cards from other programs.)  That means we are already admitting about 5,000 potential jihadists per year to the United States under current policy.  And the Clinton campaign has proposed essentially doubling the current numbers, by admitting an additional 65,000 Syrian refugees (and therefore, inevitably, an approximate total of 10,000 potential jihadists) per year.

And that is a risk I do not think we should take.  The introduction of a deliberately hostile and subversive minority into the midst of any free society is a potentially serious threat to that society.  When Winston Churchill was trying to awaken the British people to the Nazi threat in the 1930’s, he said “Virtuous motives, trammeled with inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness.”  And that’s what jihadism is:  armed and resolute wickedness.  

As discussed in the section of this site on the Role of Government, the primary Biblical reason for the existence of our government is to keep us safe.  And it would indeed be a sickening irony if, after many dedicated people in our police and military services spend their lifetimes fighting jihadist terrorism at home and abroad, we start to have ever-increasing problems with terrorism at home merely because of the willful blindness of those who claim to be our political “elite.”

And the course of our political discussion on the issue of jihadism so far has convinced me of one other important fact:  We must win the battle against jihadism at the borders of the U.S.  Legitimate civil rights issues make it much more difficult to fight jihadism within our borders than it would be to place sensible restrictions on the immigration of jihadists.  And while I think it is important to improve our procedures for vetting, or “screening out,” potential terrorists at the U.S. border as much as possible, senior U.S. security officials have warned that there are inherent limitations to the effectiveness of these procedures when they are applied to nations that are likely sponsors of terrorism.[20]

Therefore, I think it is likely that the only effective solution to the problem of jihadist immigration would be to place strict limits on the total number of people who are allowed to immigrate to the United States (i.e. to gain “lawful permanent resident” status) from the countries that have been designated “special interest countries” because they are regarded as possible havens for terrorists.[21]

Regardless of what other restrictions we may place on immigration for economic reasons, I think there should be only two ways for immigrants originating from the “special interest countries” to gain lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.:  1) marry a U.S. citizen, or 2) be part of the Congressionally approved quota of refugees and/or asylees during a given year (which currently stands at a total of 100,000 people per year, including about 30,000 people per year from the Middle East, and in my opinion should be kept at or near that level.)  Within the category of refugees and asylees, I think priority should be given to a) people who have helped the United States politically or militarily, and/or b) people that are in serious danger of persecution for their religion, or for their political views.  In other words, among the refugees we should give priority to Christians, moderate Muslims, and others whom we think are likely to lead a peaceful life here in the United States, and try our best to exclude the militants.  This reflects the view that immigration to the United States is a privilege, not a right, and that to the best of our ability, we should give that privilege to those who share our values and are likely to make the best use of the opportunity.

It also follows from the above discussion that, for both economic and national security reasons, U.S. policy in current and future humanitarian crises should focus primarily on resettling refugees within their own countries, rather than supporting or condoning further mass immigration to the United States.  I believe that in the vast majority of cases, that will be what is best for everyone concerned (including the refugees themselves.)

E)  Reform of Future/Long-Term Immigration Policy

Although imposing an 8 to 17 year moratorium on both legal and illegal immigration into the United States (with the relatively narrow exceptions already noted above) would substantially mitigate many of the economic and national security problems associated with excessive immigration in the near term, I think two further reforms of our immigration policy are needed in the long term.  Specifically:

1)        We should modify our criteria for immigration so that they focus more on importing skilled workers (as needed after the expiration of the moratorium), and less on importing the relatives of previous immigrants.  We should also develop a “point system” for ranking potential new immigrants on their economic skills, similar to those currently in place in Australia and Canada.[22]  This would have two beneficial effects:

a)    It would reserve what lower-skilled jobs we have for the workforce that already resides in the United States.

b)    It would admit new skilled immigrants based partly on their economic skills (as well as on the availability of jobs for them), rather than relying exclusively on skilled immigrants being sponsored by particular companies as our current H-1B visa system for skilled workers does.. 

2)        We should explicitly tie future levels of immigration to the rate of job growth in the United States.  This should include an automatic pause in new immigration when the rate of new job growth in the United States turns negative over an extended period.[23]  In this way, we should be able to avoid severe distortions of the labor market in either direction in the future.   

F)  End Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship (the rule that anyone born within the boundaries of the United States is automatically a U.S. citizen from birth,) is one of the biggest incentives for illegal immigration to continue over the long term.  Therefore, we need to end birthright citizenship.  I am not sure whether or not a constitutional amendment is needed to end birthright citizenship, but at any rate we should end it one way or another.  Many other countries have already done this.  Persons born within the United States should not be U.S. citizens unless at least one parent is a U.S. citizen (either native-born or naturalized.)



[1] The feast of Passover was (and still is today) a remembrance of God’s mercy to the nation of Israel.  During Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God’s destroying angel killed the firstborn son of each Egyptian household, but spared (or “passed over”) the houses of the Israelites, which had been marked with lamb’s blood.   See Exodus chapter 12.

[2] Circumcision of every male was the symbol of God’s covenant with Israel.

[3] The discussion in the remainder of this section relies primarily on the BLS/CPS data.  The CPS data, which is based on a survey of individual households, provides more detailed data than the other BLS data set on employment  (the Current Employment Situation or CES data, which is based on a survey of employers.)

[4] The U.S. government’s fiscal years end on Sept. 30 of the indicated year.  Thus, the Fiscal Year 2000 – 2014 period covers October 1, 1999 – Sept. 30, 2014.  The LPR data cited here is from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2014 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (published August 2016.)

[5] “Working age” as used in this section = ages 16-64.  The data in this paragraph is U.S. BLS/CPS data as reported by the Center for Immigration Studies, “The Employment Situation of Immigrants and Natives in the Fourth Quarter of 2015” and the same title for the First Quarter of 2016.

[8] Note that to save myself time, I have reproduced here only the charts for native-born American workers (which were readily available in the Center for Immigration Studies publication.)  But I was struck by the similarity in workforce participation trends for both native-born and immigrant workers.  Anyone else who is interested can review the CIS data in “The Employment Situation of Immigrants and Natives in the Fourth Quarter of 2015” and the same title for the First Quarter of 2016.

[10] See NumbersUSA.com

[11] For more on this, including examples from other jurisdictions, see http://eaglerising.com/34542/washington-d-c-officials-blame-illegal-immigrants-for-rise-in-crime/

[12]  DHS, 2014 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 39.

[13] For a good summary of the current situation regarding immigrant marriages, see Forbes, “Immigration And Marriage: What Happens If You Marry Or Divorce A Foreign Spouse?,” November 17, 2014.  Bottom line:  “Marriages of convenience” are not a good way to circumvent the system, and we need to make sure that remains the case.

[14] Note that between Sept. 2014 and June 2016, the U.S. economy created jobs at a slightly improved pace of about 2,500,000 jobs per year.  If such a trend were to continue over the long term, it might be possible to end the proposed moratorium on new immigration sooner than stated here.  However, I do not think our policy decisions should assume that such an optimistic scenario will occur.

[15] Low end calculation:  4,800,000 total new jobs needed / reduction of total underemployment by 650,000 jobs/year = 7.4 years of immigration moratorium (round up to 8 years).  High end calculation:  10,800,000 total new jobs needed / reduction of total underemployment by 650,000 jobs/year = 16.6 years of immigration moratorium (round up to 17 years).

[16] The Quran, a new translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, copyrights 2004-2010.

[17] Pew Research Center, “The World’s Muslims:  Religion, Policy, and Society,” April 2013, Appendix A.

[18] All true religions advocate voluntary self-restraint, and voluntary submission to the God-given moral order.  And therefore Jihadism, which advocates killing everyone who disagrees with the Jihadists’ interpretation of the Quran, is clearly a false religion despite its claim to be Islamic.  This becomes even more clear when one examines the Islamic scriptures (the Quran.)  The first line of the first chapter in the Quran (which is also a line included in every Muslim’s daily prayers) describes Allah as “the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.” (or in an alternative translation, as “the Compassionate, the Merciful.”)  And it makes no more sense for a Muslim to say “I’m going to kill you in the name of Allah, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy” than it would for a Christian to say “I’m going to kill you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”  So the Jihadists stand convicted of heresy, both by their own scriptures and by their own oral tradition.

[19] We must not allow political considerations to blind us to the fact that terrorism is murder.  And therefore, terrorism violates a very important one of the Ten Commandments.

[20] See for example:  “Senior Obama officials have warned of challenges in screening refugees from Syria,” Washington Post, November 17,2015.

[21] The list of “special interest countries” which are possible havens for terrorists was created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which is part of DHS) after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.  It was originally used to designate countries of origin from which potential immigrants (referred to as “special interest aliens”) would be subject to additional security screening.  The latest “official” version of this list that I have been able to find is from a CBP memo dated November 1, 2004, and it then included 35 countries and 2 territories, as follows:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and the Territories of Gaza and West Bank.  Apparently the U.S. government does not wish to publicize more recent versions of this information. 

[22] For one description of how such a system could work, see http://thefederalist.com/2016/08/19/the-immigration-test-trump-should-have-proposed/

[23] One example of how such a system could work would be to pause new immigration when the six month average rate of new job creation has been negative for six consecutive months, and not resume it again until net new job creation turns positive again (exceeding the pre-recession peak.)  Based on analysis of the historical BLS/CPS data, this would have paused new immigration from the end of October 2001 – June 2003, and would have paused immigration again from the end of October 2008 – September 2014, which would have been a far better outcome for American workers than what actually occurred.

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