In previous columns, I have argued that immigration quotas are a political, not a legal matter. A close examination of figures provided by the Department of Homeland Security bears that out. Here are the facts:
Several paragraphs were devoted to a history of immigration quotas, which I summarize here:
Before 1924: No restrictions except the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
1905-1914: slightly more than one million immigrants annually
1924: Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, limiting immigration by country.
1925: 294,314 immigrants.
1923: 23068 immigrants
1943: ban on Asians repealed,
1952: Immigration and Nationality
1960s: around 250,000 immigrants/year.
mid-80s: around 500,000 immigrants/year
1989: "A real breakthrough": 1,090,172 immigrants.
1991: 1,826,595 in 1991.
90s/00s: about a million a year.
I wondered about the numbers, since with Gary you never know what he means by "immigrant". In this case the end of his column noted that the numbers were based on "persons obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status".
Anyway, this was a long way to get to the point that immigration quotas change over time. Gary claims this makes them political rather than legal:
These numbers show that immigration quota numbers are easily bent and stretched, like rubber bands. Thus, although a general framework for immigration matters is set forth in Title 8 of the U.S. Code, political rather than legal considerations determine who ultimately is admitted to the United States.
Of course, the quotas are set by law, and many of the changes Gary cited were in fact LEGAL changes. But at some level, laws are passed for political reasons, so I guess in that sense the quotas are "political".
If I had to guess (and I'm certainly not going to assert with Gary, since I don't want to be sued), I think Gary might be trying to say that the times when we "restricted" immigration it was due to politicians pandering, not a good rational reason.
In any case, having noted that we have increased LEGAL immigration to almost 1.2 million people a year, Gary argues still that ILLEGAL immigration isn't a problem. But he hates using the term "illegal" when it comes to immigrants:
Mindful of these figures, U. S. citizens should not conclude that immigration matters can be resolved merely through police, court, detention and deportation actions. That is wholly unrealistic. Rather, politicians at the federal level must craft rules and policies, which protect the legitimate interests of the United States while still treating new arrivals, including "over-quota" immigrants, with compassion and understanding. If they cannot or will not do this, they might as well dismantle the Statue of Liberty and return it to France with a note saying, "not us, not now, not ever."
There's a lot to be corrected in this paragraph. Let's start with that charming euphemism "over-quota immigrants". The problem isn't simply that someone "let too many people in", which is what "over-quota" means, it's that some people are ignoring the legal process for immigrating, and instead are simply racing across the border illegally. That's why they are called "illegal immigrants", NOT because they exceeded quota, but because they didn't follow the legal method.
Second, he is correct that we shouldn't think "immigration" can be solved simply through "enforcement". But I don't think anybody is arguing that. The ILLEGAL immigrant problem requires enforcement. The legal immigrants don't need enforcement or deportation. In fact, we may need to increase the quotas for legal immigrants -- something we could do if we got rid of the ILLEGAL immigrants who are flooding the system, crowding out legal immigrants.
Of course, Gary never acknowledges "illegal" in immigration, and here he's trying to confuse the issue again.
Of course, enforcement alone won't solve the illegal immigration problem either. We can't simply deport them all. We need to guard the border to stop new illegal crossings. We need to crack down on companies taking advantage of illegals through substandard wages, or bad working conditions. We then need to increase penalties for employers who hire illegals when there are legal citizens and immigrants available to to the work. Finally, we need to institute better programs for hiring temporary legal immigrants, programs that closely track the immigrants since most illegals actually came here legally and then stayed when they were supposed to leave.
If we can do all these things, we can increase the quotas for legal immigrants, we can better regulate the migrant and temporary immigrant worker programs, and we can even grant legal status to the longest-term illegal population that has integrated into our society.
But we'll never accomplish any of these important goals so long as we treat illegal immigrants as simply "over-quota", and refuse to to anything to stop the flow of illegals into our country, or to remove them once they are here.