Americans have been waiting for "comprehensive immigration reform" since 1986, when President Reagan granted amnesty to most illegal immigrants in the country -- roughly 3 million at the time -- in exchange for lawmakers' promises to secure the border.
Congress quickly reneged on those promises. Four decades and eight amnesties later, the border has never been less secure, employers continue to hire illegal workers with near impunity, and the illegal immigrant population has ballooned to roughly 12 million and is growing every day.
Better immigration policy is possible and very much needed. Yet both political parties have failed to deliver reforms that promote economic fairness for American workers -- especially the most vulnerable in our society -- while safeguarding our natural resources for future generations. Voters across demographic and ideological lines all recognize the system is not working and broadly support such an approach.
Legal immigration has accelerated over the last four decades. Since 1990, when Congress raised immigration levels, the United States has admitted around one million legal immigrants annually. That number is double any level recommended by congressionally appointed panels, and doesn't even include millions of additional guest workers, visa overstayers, or illegal border crossers. Federal law enforcement officers have already encountered almost 2 million illegal immigrants at the southern border this fiscal year, on pace to surpass last year's record 2.4 million.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the foreign-born population could reach 51.7 million by the end of President Biden's first term -- constituting 15.5% of the total U.S. population, the largest share in history.
This influx has harmed American workers, especially those with lower levels of education. There are now around 50 million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 64 who are not working. Some don't want to work. Others don't have to work. But many find it impossible to obtain work at fair wages in reasonable conditions due to desperate economic migrants.
It is distressing to constantly hear that tens of millions of Americans are too lazy or incompetent to hire. Even more troubling is the argument that the solution is to bring in tens of millions more foreign workers. Many U.S. employers simply refuse to recruit, train, and retain available and willing Americans. Too many businesses have become reliant on cheaper, unprotected, more compliant foreign workers.
What is happening to those Americans who are brushed aside and become merely a data point in monthly reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? The ongoing tragedies include drug addiction, suicides, and violent crime. Policymakers must consider the effects of having so many Americans out of work, and how immigration, both legal and illegal, has contributed to those outcomes.
America has long welcomed newcomers, and most Americans support continued, legal, permanent immigration -- but within sustainable parameters.
Stopping the recent surges of illegal immigration and reducing numerical levels of legal immigration held widespread support from leadership of both parties. Presidents Clinton and Obama spoke in favor of it. Sen. Bernie Sanders called the idea that the United States should admit as many foreign workers as employers demanded a "Koch brothers proposal" as recently as 2015. President Trump endorsed Sen. Tom Cotton's RAISE Act, which would have roughly halved legal immigration by ending chain migration.
Democrats and Republicans must recommit themselves to stopping illegal immigration and reducing annual immigration to reasonable levels. The party that supports sensible immigration reform will win the battle for American workers.
James Massa is CEO of NumbersUSA. This piece originally ran in the Daily Telegraph.
Senator Scott, Senate Colleagues Fight to Secure the Border
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) joined Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his Senate colleagues in introducing the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which stands as the most comprehensive border security legislation in decades. The Secure the Border Act addresses the Biden administration’s open border crisis by increasing the number of Border Patrol Agents, resuming construction on the border wall, tightening asylum standards, criminalizing visa overstays and prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security from using its app to assist illegal immigrants.
“The numbers don’t lie: the border crisis is not going away,” said Senator Scott. “From fentanyl trafficking to human trafficking to known terrorists infiltrating our country, the Biden administration’s open border policy is anything but humane. It’s time we recognize that border security is national security and secure our country.”
Companion legislation, introduced by U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), has passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Republican National Committee’s data shows 7 million illegal immigrants have crossed the border under the Biden administration. This number includes 85,000 unaccompanied children whom the Biden administration is unable to account for – 60% of whom are likely to be exploited through child pornography and drug trafficking. Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl during FY 2022, fueled by Chinese suppliers and Mexican cartels targeting the open border and making fentanyl overdose the leading cause of death for young Americans. In addition to the humanitarian crisis and fentanyl crisis, the Biden administration’s open border policy has escalated a national security crisis, with record numbers of terrorists apprehended at the border.
Joining Senators Scott and Cruz are Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.), and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio).
Summary of the Secure the Border Act:
Full text of the Secure the Border Act can be found here.
Senator Scott’s work to address the border and fentanyl crisis include: