“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” –John F. Kennedy
As I pen this article, it is a few days after the midterm elections in early November and the electorate has spoken, and while the results were pretty much as expected one would hope that things will change in Washington. Notice I didn't say for the better or the worse, because at this point I am too cynical to believe that improvement is possible or that it won't get any worse.
Besides the news being filled with Ebola and ISIS, there is another major problem we should be worrying about in the last few minutes before we cry ourselves to sleep each night. That is immigration.
It appears there are two major thought processes on the current immigration issue. One side advocates sealing the border and sending the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants back to their homeland. The other side is desirous of tightening the border but also granting amnesty to those millions and automatically making them citizens.
In my opinion, both drastic measures are unmanageable, woefully cost-prohibitive and sure political suicide for the party whose stance is successful, and in particular when a national election is only two years away.
I must admit I had been leaning toward the deportation side of the scale for quite a while, based simply on the premise they came here illegally and as a result should be treated as such. In reality, I found my opinion was based solely on only listening to one side of the story and failing to do some research as any reasonably intelligent (obviously not me) person should do.
So here's what I have concluded. First, there are a lot of myths out there about immigration, its effects on the U.S. economy, jobs, taxes, crime, and on and on that are not true.
For example, many think every job filled by an immigrant is a job taken away from an unemployed American. Actually if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were removed, there would not be an equal number of job openings because native-born workers and undocumented immigrants tend to possess different skills that are often complementary and not interchangeable. Also, since employment is not a “zero sum” game, the economy would lose jobs as well as an equal number of taxpayers and consumers.
Some argue that our sluggish economy doesn't need more immigrant workers, but as I found working with the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, there are simply not enough native-born people to fill the employment void as baby boomers retire in the next five years. Consider there will be well over 65 million baby boomers retiring and because of our country's low birth rate and school dropout rate, we will not even come close to filling the employment gap, not to mention the demand for skilled workers. The 11 million undocumented immigrants will help. I am proposing we not allow another illegal to flow over the border, but those who are here should be allowed to stay and be given a clear path to gaining citizenship.
I believe both parties really want immigration reform or some solution to the problem that is morally acceptable, does not damage our still fragile economy and, of course, gives them the advantage to all those potential new voters (the latter being the predominant factor for any politician).
Why not keep it simple? Make the border what it was intended to be, which is a check point for all who enter. Stop blaming others for what has happened in the past because it can't be changed and set up a realistic plan for those undocumented immigrants to work toward attaining citizenship. There is a way we can all win in this situation.
I only hope and pray that the President doesn't exercise his predicted executive action on immigration purely out of spite and before Congress has the opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan. Doing so will only intensify the issues between the parties and cause us to lose even more confidence in the political process.
Don Frendberg is president of Phase 3 Insights.
Contact him at 614/208-6801 or [email protected].