The ultimate and determinative question for our country, much less discussed, is whether we should embrace or reject the immigrant heritage that has served us so well.
Right now, the trend is disturbing. For the past 20 years, we have pursued enforcement-only policies which have not significantly stymied illegal entry into the country. Since 2000, for example, we have spent over $100 billion on immigration enforcement. During the same period, the number of undocumented persons has grown from 7 million to 11 million.
Our legal immigration system, basically ignored by Congress for nearly 50 years, is outmoded and inadequate to our future labor needs, especially when the economy recovers. There are simply not enough visas for unskilled workers to come legally. The family-based immigration system, which has helped immigrant families remain together and thrive for decades, is unworkable and now keeps families apart.
The combined effect of these policies has negatively impacted immigrant communities, including their legal resident and U.S. citizen members.
We can return to our tradition as a nation of immigrants and welcome and invest in them, or we can continue to turn inward to the detriment of our own interests.
It is our choice. I pray we make the right one.