Our opinion on Comprehensive Immigration Reform is shaped by our understanding of the history and present reality of immigration in America. Below are some popular statements in the immigration discussion. I have said some of them in the past. More accurate observations on immigration follow each statement.

“My ancestors came here legally, they should too.”

Immigration laws are radically different from when most of our ancestors came to the United States. We basically had open boarders until the 1880s, when the first restrictions, targeted at Chinese immigrants, went into place. While our families are full of inspiring stories of immigration, most of them do not include the current legal barriers. Now, though, our laws are very restrictive and make it impossible for many immigrants to enter lawfully.

“We already have good laws, they just need to be followed and enforced.”

We do have laws, and some of them were good when they were originally written. However, many of them need updated to match our current reality. That is the point of reform, to make it better! Part of the problem of enforcement is that the current laws do not match the current needs of the nation.

There are four ways to enter the nation on a green card. All of them have significant weaknesses. Family – years or decades on a waiting list. Employment – almost exclusively for advanced degrees, but employment trends show a need for low skilled workers. Diversity – by nature excludes areas of highest demand. Refugee – surprisingly difficult to prove, the number granted are only a small fraction of the number in tremendous need.

“Comprehensive Immigration Reform just another piece of the dangerous leftist agenda.”

The current reform legislation in discussion, written with Lindsey Graham, is more “conservative” than the version championed by George W. Bush and John McCain four years ago. None of those names are darlings of the “far-left.” I was recently on a conference call with a large group of conservatives, including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Policy wing, who are calling for comprehensive immigration reform. They see a need to reform the system for “conservative values” of family, economy, and security.

“Those people are taking away our jobs.” / “Those people are lazy and want to live off the system.”

Obviously those statements can’t both be true!

Immigrants are generally very hard-working. Many of them come here for work. The majority of immigrants working illegally, 75%, are paying taxes (often with a false Social Security Number, which will never be valid for obtaining any benefits under current law). Those payments account for $6 to $7 billion per year. The IRS has even created an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for immigrants without a valid Social Security Number to file taxes, and many, many do each year.

Most employers want to get a good employee for the job at a low-cost. Some employers say that immigrants are willing to work jobs that American citizens will not. Some employers hire undocumented workers as a way to avoid labor laws, with little risk of being penalized.

“Those people are the cause of surging crime rates.” / “Those people are ruining our economy.”

People said the same things about all of our ancestors when they came here.

There is no data that shows immigrants are any more likely to commit crimes than citizens.

Immigrant workers are a crucial piece of our economy (See previous point.).

“Immigration is out of control right now!”

There were higher rates of immigrants one hundred years ago – the “golden years” for those of us who’s families came to America in the early 1900s. Immigration is actually down now. The overall flow at the USA – Mexico border is actually going to the south. Granted, most experts attribute that shift to the economic recession in America.

Thanks to Matt Soerens for clarifying these issues.

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