In his Washington Post column, “Immigration can be fixed. So why aren’t we doing it?,” Fareed Zakaria unveils a common-sense approach to solving a problem that has bedeviled Democrats for too long. As Zakaria writes,
In May, it seemed obvious that the United States was going to face an unmanageable border crisis. In the previous fiscal year, there were about 2.4 millionapprehensions of people trying to enter the United States at the southern border. And the authorities were about to lose the provision of Title 42 implemented in March 2020 that allowed them to swiftly expel migrants at the border as a pandemic-prevention measure. But the end of the pandemic meant that temporary power also had to come to a close.
It seems that the Biden administration’s plan worked. It put in place a series of measures designed to deal with the impending problem, chiefly a stiff penalty for crossing the border illegally (deportation plus a five-year ban on any reentry), coupled with expanding ways to apply for legal asylum in the migrant’s home country. It was a welcome case of well-designed policymaking a difference.
But this success does not change the fact that the U.S. immigration system is broken. The crush at the southern border may be less than anticipated, but it is still an influx, and its effects are being felt across the nation. Texas, overwhelmed by the numbers, has bused migrants to Washington and New York. But the truth is that migrants have been crowding into major American cities, including Chicago, on a scale that is breaking those communities’ capacities to respond.
Zakaria goes on to describe in detail the overwhelming problems associated with this migration in New York, and notes similar effects in Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He adds that “The migration crisis is being exacerbated by politics on both sides. The MAGA right, of course, demonizes migrants and asylum seekers and prefers no solution since a crisis helps it politically. But the far left routinely attacks any sensible measures aimed at curbing the influx as cruel, inhumane and illegal.” Further, Zakaria writes,
America’s immigration system is broken. Its asylum laws were designed after the Holocaust to allow admission to a small number of people personally facing intense persecution because of their religion or political beliefs. It provided for their residency applications to be evaluated while they waited in the country.
….Although some might have legitimate claims, most are fleeing the same conditions of poverty, violence, instability and disease that have been driving would-be immigrants to the United States for hundreds of years. Today, many have realized that if they claim asylum, they get special treatment. Some U.S. officials handling this issue have told me that people are gaming the system to gain the best possible chance of entry.
The laws and rules around asylum must be fixed so that immigration authorities can focus on the small number of genuine asylum seekers while compelling the rest to seek other legal means of entry. At the same time, it’s important to note that the United States is facing a drastic shortfall of labor and must expand legal immigration in many areas for just that reason. We urgently need to attract the world’s best technically skilled people so that they can push forward the information and biotech revolutions that are transforming the economy and life itself. With unemployment rates around 50-year lows, it is obvious that we need more workers in many sectors of the economy, from agriculture to hospitality. If this is done in a legal and orderly manner, Americans will welcome the new workers.
Zakaria concludes, “Biden has tried to work with Republicans on several issues, and he has even had a few successes. He should propose an immigration bill that is genuinely bipartisan and forces compromises from both sides. It would be one more strong dose of evidence that policy can triumph over populism.”
On the same topic, be sure to read Andrew Levison’s TDS Strategy Memo, “Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if they do not offer a plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border,” which includes a subset of specific immigration reforms that can help meet Zakaria’s challenge, defuse the crisis and empower Dems win a working majority next year.