hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Editorial July 2018



To fix immigration, try making it easier


On June 20, President Trump changed course, in the face of a growing public outcry, and signed an executive order halting his administration’s policy of separating children and parents when families are detained crossing the U.S. border.

By then, the government had shipped off more than 2,000 children, even infants and toddlers, to holding facilities hundreds or thousands of miles away while their parents were jailed. And as we soon learned, our government had no plan for how to reunite these children with their families.
On the same day as the president’s executive order, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik responded to a flood of constituent calls and media inquiries about the administration’s self-created crisis with a press release: She called for passage of a “compromise bill” she said would end family separations and address a range of other immigration issues.

“For too long, both parties have kicked the can on immigration reform, and it’s time for Congress to finally act,” Stefanik wrote.

U.S. Rep. John Faso also joined the call for the compromise legislation.
Well, Stefanik and Faso are right that our immigration system is broken and that Congress has failed to fix it for far too long. But the bill that the two Hudson Valley Republicans supported would have made almost everything about that system worse. (It failed badly in a June 27 floor vote.)

Just to clarify, the “compromise bill” might sound bipartisan, but the compromise really was between two Republican factions. Democrats weren’t invited to help draft the legislation.
On the issue of family separation, the bill would have overruled a court decision that limited the amount of time children could be kept in detention. Under the GOP bill, children could now be kept in the same facilities as their parents until their parents’ asylum claims could be adjudicated – a process that can take years.

By far the worst of the bill’s many provisions, though, is this: It would have cut legal immigration to the United States by an estimated 40 percent annually.

Just think about that for a moment.
Republicans used to be the party that understood economics and listened to the concerns of small businesses. And both Stefanik and Faso surely know that in our region, with its stagnant and graying population, lots of small businesses – dairy farms, stone quarries, landscapers, restaurants and more – are being kept alive by immigrant workers. Many, many of those workers are here illegally.

What we’re witnessing is a classic black-market situation. The government restricts or even criminalizes some perfectly normal activity – in this case, people moving to a new place in search of a better life – and helps to spawn an underground economy with all kinds of perverse incentives.

And it’s all so unnecessary. One of the biggest whoppers spread by anti-immigration zealots and repeated by people who should know better is the notion that immigrants are a drain on the economy. In fact, the consensus among economists is that immigrants contribute far more than they take from the economy, and that fact is being proven every day in our region.
Opponents of illegal immigration like to stress that it’s illegal. But one of the beauties of our system of government is that when we have really dumb laws, we can change them.
If we want to fix our broken immigration system, the place to start would be by opening the door to legal immigration a lot wider.


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